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Tom Ridge on Free Trade

Secretary of Homeland Defense; Former Republican Governor (PA)


Closing borders post-9-11 dealt a crushing blow to trade

After 9/11, there had been a huge cry to effectively close off access to our land borders, dramatically reducing the threat of terrorists simply walking in from Canada or Mexico. We closed our borders, north and south. As a result, commerce was adversely affected and in many instances came to a screeching halt.

Since the inception of NAFTA, trade with Canada and Mexico had tripled, yet the infrastructure (bridges, tunnels, etc.) needed to move the goods had not been expanded or improved. With the tightening of rules and the intensifying of inspections, the natural result was a crushing blow to commerce.

The natural reaction of 9/11 --keep everyone out-- was neither realistic nor desirable for our own security or prosperity. We are inextricably linked by the economic, diplomatic, and cultural forces of globalization, and the ties that bind us need protection and preservation.

Source: The Test of our Times, by Tom Ridge, p. 64-65 , Sep 1, 2009

Increase global connections, even for small business

As governor, my goal was to make Pennsylvania a leader among states and a competitor among nations. I believed that every program, old and new, should be tested against this standard of comparison and excellence. It was clear to me from my first day in office that my state and its workers needed global connections and relationships. We tripled the number of overseas trade offices. We took small and medium-sized companies on trade missions. They were encouraged to think strategically and to look for more than a single selling opportunity, to build relationships that would endure.

My worldview of the irreversible nature of America's interdependence on the rest of the world for economic and security reasons was confirmed again when I traveled early in my tenure with the Coast Guard. During an inspection of a port, we were invited to board a bulk cargo ship. I ascended the pilot ladder and boarded the ship registered in Singapore, with an Indian crew, awaiting American grain to transport to Japan.

Source: The Test of our Times, by Tom Ridge, p.185 , Sep 1, 2009

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Page last updated: Jul 12, 2013