Business and Policy Leader Events

NYU Stern, The Economist and Launch Global Issues in Campaign '08 Series

On November 12, 2007 Thomas F. Cooley, Dean of the NYU Stern School of Business; Amity Schlaes, Senior Fellow for Economic History at the Council on Foreign Relations; and Matthew Bishop, Editor and New York Bureau Chief at the Economist debated global trade issues as they relate to the 2008 American Presidential election. The discussion, moderated by Robert McMahon, Deputy Editor of, was attended by nearly 400 business practitioners and NYU Stern students and alumni, and the greater NYU community.

While the discussants were in agreement that global trade is beneficial to the U.S. economy, they addressed why the general population continues to be pessimistic about globalization, and offered some reason for why the candidates have not made this issue a priority in their campaigns, and why they should.

In opening the discussion, McMahon asked why there is so much gloom in the economy, and why trade is being perceived as part of the problem. Dean Cooley responded, "We are seeing some of the dark side of globalization and trade in a very real way with regard to poison-tainted Chinese toys. Why is it politically popular to jump on this issue rather than stand up and talk about the incredible benefits for free trade? Because it's very easy to concentrate on who loses from trade, such as those who have lost jobs because of NAFTA, and it is very difficult to pinpoint who the many beneficiaries are."

Schlaes believes the problem lies in Americans' view of entitlement which is being expressed as concern about trade. "If we look away and just be protectionist, maybe we can guard this old social contract. That is the subtext in the protectionist rhetoric, and you will see it especially in Hillary Clinton when she uses the word "safe". Safe, in "Clintonese", means a safe social contract."

Both Schlaes and Dean Cooley expressed disbelief that politicians and especially corporations, most of which benefit from free trade, haven't stood up more forcefully on this issue. "McCain, who advocates for free trade, Giuliani, Fred Thompson - you would at least expect them to stand up. But it's also really surprising that American corporate leaders have not stood up more for free trade," said Dean Cooley.

On Clinton's attitude toward free trade, Bishop questions whether once in office she would revert to the attitude toward free trade that her husband took, which was "remarkably positive". "I think most people believe she understands the economics of free trade and may find reason to embrace it more aggressively in office," said Bishop.

The discussants agreed that unless there is a significant financial meltdown in the U.S., trade will not be a headline issue in any of the candidates' platforms, because the general population is more concerned about the war, healthcare and retirement security.

Why should the American public get behind free trade? Bishop summed it up best when he spoke of how America benefits from free trade, "America is playing globalization better than any other country in the world. Its companies are the most innovative in the world, leading the profit-making from manufacturing outsourcing in China, as well as the business process outsourcing in India. In fact, as we know from trade, even domestic services in not very human-capital-intensive jobs have become more valuable in a booming economy." And while the sub-prime turmoil has dominated headlines, "a good percentage of the people who own houses now and who are going to keep their houses through this current crunch, would not have had access to mortgages and would not have had the ability to live in their own homes 10 years ago. America is doing fantastically well as an economy because of free trade."

McMahon opened the discussion to audience questions which touched on whether the U.S. could use globalization and free trade as a way to spread Western ideals as soft power, what kind of trade adjustment programs should be instated specifically to help people mitigate the losses of jobs from trade and how the panelists would evaluate the current administration from an economic perspective.

View the global trade event in its entirety

The second panel in the Global Issues in Campaign '08 series, "Energy and the Environment", will be held at NYU Stern on December 3, 2007. To RSVP for this event, visit