Commerce Secretary: U.S. Manufacturing Still Strong

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez on March 23 highlighted the strength of U.S. manufacturing and the nation's economy while emphasizing the need to reject trade barriers that could put the nation at a competitive disadvantage.

During his speech at National Manufacturing Week in Rosemont, Ill., Gutierrez pointed out that the U.S. still surpasses other industrialized nations in economic growth, noting that the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) grew 3.5% in 2005 compared with GDP growth of 0.9% in Germany, 0.3% in Italy, 1.5% in France, 1.5% in the European Union, 2.9% in Canada and 2.8% in Japan.

However, the rate of growth in the less-industrialized nations of China and India is much faster, according to reports by the Agence Presse France news service. China grew 9.8% in 2005, and India's GDP is projected to grow 8.1% in fiscal 2006.

Gutierrez also said the U.S. has doubled its manufacturing output since 1985 and is significantly outpacing Mexico, Germany, France and Japan in production. And since 2001, productivity in the U.S. has grown at an average rate of 3.8%, the fastest rate since World War II, Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez, who followed a speech presented by Caterpillar CEO Jim Owens, echoed Owens' call for maintaining free trade between the U.S. and China.

"Economic policy choices should not be dictated by fear," he said. "Policy choices must be driven by steps that build and sustain our strengths. Free trade is our best hope to raise living standards around the world."

Gutierrez also mentioned the need for more workforce training and education to keep pace with the rest of the manufacturing world. He recommended that manufacturers become more involved in the U.S. educational system and encourage students to study math, science and engineering and pursue related careers.

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