CEA Issues Challenge to Lou Dobbs

The consumer electronics trade group accuses the CNN newsman of trading in the politics of fear over free trade agreements. 

Behind all the glitz and glamour of the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, a political agenda is emerging for the Consumer Electronics Association. Apparently, it begins with global trade issues.

After CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro hosted U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab in a question-and-answer session Jan. 7, the CEA issued a press release challenging CNN's Lou Dobbs to live debate on Dobbs' evening news show. Dobbs has been an ardent critic of U.S. trade policies.

"[Dobbs'] anti-trade comments on his cable show and his refusal to grant equal time to opposing viewpoints are inconsistent with CNN's great legacy as a pioneering news network," Shapiro said in a statement. "We are hopeful that CNN will wish to retain its credibility."

Borrowing a page from Barack Obama's presidential campaign playbook, Shapiro accused Dobbs of creating a climate of fear when it comes to trade.

"The facts are indisputable—without international trade, our nation would not have the greatest economy in the world," Shapiro said. "If we accept messages of fear without acknowledging the facts, we will adopt a defeatist approach that will only hurt our economy and the innovative businesses and talented workers that would otherwise bring more jobs and opportunities to Americans than ever before."

To read about why recession fears are spoiling CES, click here.

Shapiro said high tech is America's largest export sector, comprising 21 percent of total U.S. exported goods worth $220 billion in 2006. He also noted "nearly half" of the CEA's 2,100 member companies reported that exporting to a new market is a high priority in the next year.

"We are talking about the future of our country here. It's not just a matter of money and trade; it's about the soul, direction and strategy that we employ as a country," Shapiro said during his appearance with Schwab. "We want to make sure we keep our strategy of being a free-trading country that encourages imports and exports because that is what made us great, and a great country does not put up walls."

Schwab, appointed to her position by President Bush in 2005, couldn't agree more.

"The United States is a major player both as an exporter and as an importer. Together, we are talking about $800 billion in U.S. exports and imports combined in a sector with global trade of over $3 trillion dollars," Schwab said. "It is evident from the participants [at CES] how incredibly important trade is, whether they are manufacturing here, manufacturing abroad, designing here, creating software, all of it moves in and around international commerce, creating jobs, creating opportunities."

Last fall the CEA launched a new congressional trade campaign on the importance of trade to U.S. job creation in the electronics industry. The CEA called for reauthorizing trade promotion authority, which allows the president to negotiate trade deals that

Congress can approve or disapprove but cannot amend. Trade promotion authority for the president expired in July of last year.

The CEA is also seeking elimination of non-trade tariff barriers and upholding and enforcing current trade agreements.