Few states have been as affected by the realities of the global economy as Mississippi.
Tens of thousands of jobs in manufacturing, the cut-and-sew apparel industry, assembly work and an assortment of other labor intensive positions have been lost. The jobs have gone offshore thanks to international trade agreements which limit tariffs, minimize organized labor and encourage companies to look for business opportunities around the world — not just down the street or around the block.
The latest challenge for a Mississippi product in the global economy involves Russia’s threat to ban U.S. poultry imports. Poultry and egg production is a more than billion dollar industry in our state, and exports to Russia are an important part of that success. Losing that business would hurt thousands of Mississippians.
Speculation that this threat is tied to the Bush administration’s imposition of a steel import tariff highlight the perils and complications of trade roadblocks, “unfair” trade practices, subsidized industries and the complex interconnectedness of economies. While the U.S. steel industry is in trouble and cheap imports are a significant part of the problem, imposing a tariff on these imports poses as many new problems as it does solutions.
Tit for tat trade wars do not make sense in the global marketplace. Unfortunately, economic globalism has not replaced economic nationalism in the minds and policies of many in the world. Until such a change takes place, the messy squabbles over things like steel and chickens will continue to distract us.
Going global involves short- and long-term considerations. For now, the short-term situation is fraught with problems and unfortunate situations, like thousands of lost jobs. But the long-term payoff is worth it.
Positioning Mississippi for this new economic reality should be a priority for anyone interested in the state’s future economic well being.