Mayor Bloomberg, a vocal advocate of free trade, is lending his support to a cross-country campaign aimed at convincing Americans that free trade is good for the nation's employers and employees.
The 30-state, seven-week bus tour organized by the Consumer Electronics Association, whose 2,300 members include Apple, Google, and Microsoft, begins today in Lower Manhattan and will include visits to the Democratic and Republican national conventions.
Mr. Bloomberg, who once toyed with the idea of running for president as an independent, pro-trade, pro-immigration candidate, is speaking at the launch.
Organizers say they are mobilizing to combat a growing tide of protectionism in America, which they say is fueled by television commentators, such as Lou Dobbs, who advocate for a more isolationist trade policy. One goal of the tour is to urge the passage of trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea, efforts that are stalled in Congress.
More than half of all Americans say they see foreign trade as a threat to the economy, according to a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll conducted in late June. CNN reported that it was the first time one of its polls found that a majority of Americans expressed negative views on free trade, a shift that has consumer electronics industry officials worried.
"Our concern is that there are some isolationist and protectionist commentators on major television networks, for example, who have this idea that in tough economic times it is important for us to build a giant wall around the country, and perversely, blame free trade for the economic trouble our country is facing," a senior vice president of industry affairs for the Consumer Electronics Association, Jason Oxman, said. "Our goal is to educate as many Americans as possible about the benefits of free trade to our economy."
The association says there are 291,000 consumer electronics industry jobs in New York, and that the industry pumps $105 billion into the state's economy. New York companies export $1.6 billion in consumer electronics and the industry as a whole is expected to contribute $1.4 trillion to the American economy this year, an association official said.
The cross-country campaign's kickoff will be held at J&R Music World on Park Row near City Hall.
Kathryn Wylde, the president the Partnership for New York City, a business organization, said curtailing international trade would be a major threat to the city's economy.
"New York's continued economic growth and the prosperity of its business sector depends on access to the global marketplace," she wrote in an e-mail message yesterday. "Consumer Electronics is just one example of an American industry that will suffer if protectionist interests prevail."
Ms. Wylde noted that the campaign is being launched with the expectation that a new president and Congress will be under pressure to restrict trade further.
Americans opposed to free trade argue that it has cost the country millions of jobs and resulted in the exploitation of workers and the environment by companies operating overseas that aren't governed by the same regulations imposed in America.
After taking a hard line against the North American Free Trade Agreement during the Democratic primary, Senator Obama has assumed a more moderate stance, praising the benefits of free trade, while insisting that agreements have protections for labor and the environment. He is opposed to the Colombia free trade agreement.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Senator McCain, is a staunch proponent of free trade, calling himself an unapologetic supporter of NAFTA. He has argued that country should embrace competition and said that lowering barriers to trade leads to more jobs and higher wages.
Mr. Bloomberg has spoken out against protectionist trade and immigration policies.
"We have been spending our times protecting jobs, which never works, rather than promoting jobs," he told reporters earlier this year. "We have been focusing on trying to keep jobs here that just aren't going to be here in the new economy of the world, and not focusing on education for our kids and our adults who will have to go and change."
In addition to the mayor, Colombia's consul general, Francisco Noguera Rocha, is scheduled to speak at the launch of the national campaign, which organizers said was inspired by Mr. McCain's Straight Talk Express bus tour. Mr. Oxman said the Consumer Electronics Association would not endorse a presidential candidate.
The CEO of the association, Gary Shapiro, told Reuters that he is concerned about Mr. Obama's stated intention to renegotiate the NAFTA.