Will 'Buy American' Policies Backfire?

John Donvan moderates an Intelligence Squared U.S. debate. i i

hide captionJohn Donvan (center) moderates an Intelligence Squared U.S. debate at New York University's Skirball Center on Sept. 21 in New York City. The motion for the debate was "Buy American/Hire American Policies Will Backfire."

Chris Vultaggio
John Donvan moderates an Intelligence Squared U.S. debate.

John Donvan (center) moderates an Intelligence Squared U.S. debate at New York University's Skirball Center on Sept. 21 in New York City. The motion for the debate was "Buy American/Hire American Policies Will Backfire."

Chris Vultaggio

Coming Up

On Oct. 6, a panel of experts will debate the motion "America Cannot And Will Not Succeed In Afghanistan/Pakistan."

"Buy American" provisions included in legislation such as President Obama's stimulus package have touched off a heated debate. Do they boost the U.S. economy by creating jobs and allowing competition with cheap foreign goods? Or do they backfire, having little effect on job creation while sparking protectionist policies elsewhere that hurt the United States more in the end?

A panel of experts recently tackled those questions in an Intelligence Squared U.S. debate. Three panelists argued in favor of the motion "Buy American/Hire American Policies Will Backfire," while three argued against. The Oxford-style debate was moderated by John Donvan, correspondent for ABC News' Nightline.

Before the debate, the audience at New York University's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts voted 57 percent in favor of the motion, with 20 percent against and 23 percent undecided. In the end, 72 percent agreed that "Buy American/Hire American Policies Will Backfire," while 14 percent disagreed, and 14 percent remained undecided.

Those debating were:

FOR THE MOTION

Jagdish Bhagwati is university professor, economics and law, at Columbia University and senior fellow in international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations. He has been economic policy adviser to Arthur Dunkel, director-general of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade; special adviser to the United Nations on globalization; and external adviser to the World Trade Organization. Bhagwati is the author of Termites in the Trading System (2008) and In Defense of Globalization (2004).

Douglas Irwin is the Robert E. Maxwell professor of arts and sciences in the Department of Economics at Dartmouth College. He is a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research and has also served on the staff of the President's Council of Economic Advisers and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. He is the author of Free Trade Under Fire (third edition, 2009).

Jagdish Bhagwati, Douglas Irwin and Susan C. Schwab i i

hide captionJagdish Bhagwati (from left), Douglas Irwin and Susan C. Schwab argued in favor of the motion "Buy American/Hire American Policies Will Backfire."

Chris Vultaggio
Jagdish Bhagwati, Douglas Irwin and Susan C. Schwab

Jagdish Bhagwati (from left), Douglas Irwin and Susan C. Schwab argued in favor of the motion "Buy American/Hire American Policies Will Backfire."

Chris Vultaggio

Susan C. Schwab was United States trade representative from 2006 to 2009, serving as President George W. Bush's principal adviser, negotiator and spokesperson on international trade and related issues. During the administration of George H.W. Bush, she was assistant secretary of commerce and director-general of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service. She is currently a professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, where she served as dean from 1995 through 2003.

AGAINST THE MOTION

Leo W. Gerard is international president of the United Steelworkers, the dominant union in paper, forestry products, steel, aluminum, tire and rubber, glass, chemicals and petroleum. He has worked to inject workers' rights into trade agreements, investment priorities and corporate governance. A Canadian and son of a union miner, Gerard is also a founding board member of the Apollo Alliance, a nonprofit public policy initiative for creating good jobs and energy independence.

John R. MacArthur is president and publisher of Harper's Magazine, the oldest continuously published monthly magazine in America. He has served in this role since 1983. MacArthur is also an award-winning journalist and author of The Selling of "Free Trade": NAFTA, Washington, and the Subversion of American Democracy (2000). MacArthur writes a monthly column for the Providence Journal and, in French, for Le Devoir (Montreal).

Jeff Madrick is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books and a former economics columnist for The New York Times. He is editor of Challenge magazine, visiting professor of humanities at The Cooper Union, and senior fellow at the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis, The New School. He is at work on a history of the U.S. economy since 1970, to be published by Alfred A. Knopf.


The Intelligence Squared U.S. series is produced in New York City by The Rosenkranz Foundation.

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