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Global competition is changing our world.

Global competition is forcing us to reassess our values and institutions. The Clinton Administration will take a new approach to the issue, and this in turn will have an important effect on business climates at the local level. Thus it is appropriate that the National League of Cities should choose "Cities and Towns in the Global Economy" as the topic of its 1993 "Futures Forum."

World economic events have a profound impact on America's towns, cities and major metropolitan regions. Whether it is the collapse of the GATT agreement over European farm subsidies, the debate over ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement, competition from Asia and elsewhere in our basic manufacturing sector, or tensions over intellectual property rights protection, global economic issues cannot be ignored.

As local public officials, we are all directly involved in sustaining our various regions' economic competitiveness. We establish the business climate. We maintain those services such as waste disposal, transportation and police protection, that allow businesses to function. We provide education to our children and infrastructure to the entire community. Our success or failure at providing these services directly affect our business communities' ability to compete.

Americans grew accustomed to a status of superpower in both military and economic affairs, believing our economic system to be the best and that others should adhere to our rules. In reality, other societies organize their economies by a different set of rules; business, labor and government have very different relations than in our country. For example, many countries either own or subsidize their airlines; the Paris Chamber of Commerce receives substantial public funding with the government requiring all businesses to become a member.

As part of their national economic development strategy, several countries have led business missions to cities in the U.S. in search of business partners. Last year, the Taiwanese vice minister of economic affairs led such a mission to Seattle in search of business partners 'for Taiwan's national development plan.

Together, Taiwanese business and government identified ten industrial sectors for immediate development. Aerospace, environmental industries, telecommunications and computers were among those identified. These priorities complement Taiwan's ongoing investments in marine port and airport facilities, rail and roads and other infrastructures. It is a coherent strategy orchestrated by business and government together.

The Kansai region of Japan has developed an economic strategy that encompasses an infrastructure development project, a new airport, a new Science City and other port and municipal projects. These initiatives would transform Kansai into one of the most important economic regions of the world in the 21st century.

The United States has never attempted a coherent industrial strategy, and while we may not want to copy other nations wholesale, we had better understand their strategy and know how to counter it.
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Title Annotation:Futures Forum
Author:Stafford, William
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Feb 8, 1993
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