Issues Still Matter: It’s time to trade in political drama for dialogue

October brings a chill to the air, but many Americans are feeling an entirely different kind of chill as they weigh their choices of presidential candidates for the vote in November. With the election right around the corner, it is time to sift past the noise and distractions that have dominated the mainstream media and dive deep into the issues that really matter.

Throughout this election cycle, we have seen stories focusing on past offenses, denouncing personality traits and perpetuating bad behavior with more publicity. It is important to elect a candidate that stands on solid ethical footing, but where is the focus on the platforms these candidates are running on? We are voting for policies as much as the person, so we should place a little more emphasis on what will happen with education, healthcare and foreign policy with whoever takes office.

Losing ground on trade

One of my biggest causes for concern lies with the approach both candidates have taken toward international trade. Pew Research recently found that registered voters in the United States consider the economy to be the most important issue of the 2016 campaign, followed by terrorism and foreign policy. This knowledge makes the anti-trade stances from both major party candidates that much more surprising and disappointing, as trade is an important factor in all three of these categories.

Trade supports economic growth and creates jobs. As companies begin selling internationally, they attain new customers and thus hire more employees to keep up with demand. An estimated 95 percent of potential customers are located outside of the United States, so the opportunities for growth are greater outside of national borders than within.

Not only are there a plethora of economic reasons to support trade, there are diplomatic reasons as well. Trade promotes peace as countries do business across borders and respective economies stabilize and grow. This is not something worth losing ground on out of fear of fair competition.

The anti-trade perspectives adopted by the major party candidates are particularly bad news for the Beehive State. Utah is doing well internationally and was named the ninth best state for export growth by the 2015 Enterprising States Report.

Utah is a trade surplus state to the tune of about $4 billion annually. In 2015, Utah exports grew from $12.3 to $13.3 billion. This 8 percent growth in one year is impressive by anyone’s standards, but it is even more impressive when you consider Utah is a small, landlocked state that just recently hit the 3 million mark for population. The 8 percent export growth occurred despite a slowing of the global economy, terrorism abroad and a strong U.S. dollar.

Being globally minded is part of Utah’s culture. More people in Utah speak a second language than in any other state, with more than 120 languages spoken in daily commerce. The language capabilities and international focus of the state are part of the reason industry giants like Boeing, Goldman Sachs, and Adobe chose to have offices in Utah. This global focus trickles down to companies at all levels. Small- to medium-sized businesses are exporting everything from IT gadgets to outdoor equipment.

Protectionist, anti-trade policies by a future president would have a negative impact on Utah’s economy, and more broadly the U.S. economy. While some states have not fared as well in the global market, Utah should not be forced to operate at the lowest common denominator. Instead, work should be done to diversify products and provide workforce retraining in these states and identify ways they too can reap the benefits of trade.

Avoiding electoral regret

Trade is just one of the issues that should be closely examined and addressed prior to the election. Citizens need to demand substantive dialogue so they can make an informed decision when they head to the ballot box to cast their vote for the next President of the United States in November.

When the United Kingdom voted “yes” to leave the European Union, shock waves were felt around the globe, as it led to uncertainty about trade and cooperation.  This surprise grew to disbelief when headlines emerged that top Google searches in the UK in the late hours following the vote were “What is the EU” and “What is Brexit.”

A significant vote is quickly approaching for Americans and the world is watching to see what the outcome will be. Now is the time to research the options and ask the tough questions. If we don’t, we may find ourselves waking up the morning after the election googling the platform of the president-elect while the rest of the world looks on in disbelief.

Worldview-Derek-MillerDerek B. Miller is the president and CEO of World Trade Center Utah, an organization dedicated to helping Utah companies think, act and succeed globally.