The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, Library, and Museum hosted the 2017 William E. Simon Lecture in Public Affairs and the 2017 COL Ralph W. Hauenstein Fellowship presentation on July 13, 2017 at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. Former Ambassador Carla A. Hills presented a lecture entitled “Why Trade Matters” which coincided with the 104th birthday anniversary of President Gerald R. Ford.
After thanking the luncheon sponsors and attendees, Foundation Trustee Susan Ford Bales introduced Hills and highlighted her distinguished service in the Ford administration as Assistant Attorney General in the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to President Ford. Bales also noted Hills’ service as U.S. Trade Representative to President George H.W. Bush, and current work as a Trustee to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation. Bales remarked that no one better illustrated the pride President Ford had in the men and women of his administration who honorably served the American people than Carla A. Hills.
Hills opened her “Why Trade Matters” lecture with a 1974 quote from President Ford which he said, “we live in an interdependent world, and therefore must work together to solve common, economic problems.” Hills noted that Ford understood how growing international trade would contribute to the United States’ own economic growth. Hill stressed the importance of President Ford signing the 1974 Trade Act that provided a streamlined process to negotiate and approve trade deals with foreign governments while maintaining the constitutional balance of power between the President and Congress.
Hills stated that the increase in global trade has mutually benefitted United States and other countries around the world. Hill cited a Peterson Institute for International Economics study showing the increase in global trade and investment between 1950 and 2016, which increased United States GDP by two trillion dollars.
From a humanitarian standpoint, Hills pointed to the opening of global markets as “an effective development tool” in reducing global poverty. Hills cited a study by William Cline at the Center for Global Development estimating that the increase of global trade since World War II has lifted almost 500 million people out of abject poverty.
Hills also provided a few non-economic benefits to global trade. She said that by improving economic opportunities for poorer countries, global trade helps enhance United States security by preventing havens for international crime and terrorists. Hills noted that increased global partnerships from commercial engagements are necessary to deal with global problems such as pandemics and climate change.
Despite the evidence showing the benefits of global trade, Hills said most Americans and current politicians do not understand the benefits of global trade deals. She theorized that this negative view stems from lack of information and anxiety about jobs and economic inequality.
Using the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as an example, Hills said some citizens have a negative perception of the agreement despite the fact that “U.S. manufacturing output is up forty percent since signing NAFTA”; that one-third of all U.S. global trade is with Canada and Mexico; 14 million U.S. jobs also depend on trade with Mexico and Canada; and that Canada and Mexico are two of the three top export destinations for U.S. goods.
In order to continue benefiting from global trade and help reshape the negative perception of global trade among some of the American people, Hills stressed the importance of providing facts around free trade deals to local politicians. Hills also believes that the U.S. should create more high-skill job training for positions within the global trade sector.
Hills closed her lecture by answering questions from the audience. Following the Simon Lecture, Grand Valley State University Hauenstein Center Director Gleaves Whitney presented Hills with the 2017 COL Ralph W. Hauenstein Fellowship. Whitney read the citation noting the “historic career of Ambassador Hills offers a shining example of service to our nation and the world and Grand Valley State University is proud to bestow upon her the COL Ralph W. Hauenstein Fellowship.” The award was created in 2010 in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the founding of Grand Valley State University and honors distinguished individuals whose leadership and public service have profoundly influenced the course of our nation and world.
The Foundation also presented Hills with a maquette of Lt. Commander Gerald R. Ford, with the original, full-sized version aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78).