Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence Summers called on policymakers Wednesday to continue expanding the technologically-dependent domestic economy and to foster relationships between international trading partners.
“Undoubtedly, the largest and more important impediment to growing the scale and size of markets is the very imperfect integration of the global economy,” said Summers in a speech at UC Berkeley’s Haas Business School.
Summers’ appearance at the university comes at a time when his future with the Treasury Department is unclear, since the federal election quagmire remains unresolved.
Many Washington-watchers believe if Gov. George W. Bush emerges as the victor in the presidential contest, Summers, a Clinton appointee, will be ushered out.
Summers has also been tight-lipped about the status of his job if Vice President Al Gore were to win the presidency. But a recent lunch between Summers and Gore has been fueling speculation that he would be included in a Gore administration.
Summers told the standing-room only crowd that the country needs to take advantage of the stable economy before the economy slows down. He said, for example, investing money into construction of new school buildings is an important piece of business that needs to be addressed.
“There are plenty of philosophical differences and issues that are the right subject to partisanship.
“But I don’t know what philosophy there is that says that when you’re the richest country that’s ever been that you can’t afford to do something about that problem,” he said.
Summers also said that there is an “overwhelming importance” in committing more funds to research in the advancement of technology.
“If one thinks about the potential ahead of information technology and in medical technology, it is hard to believe that we as the richest country and the world shouldn’t be making every plausible investment in basic research.”
Summers also urged academics and the business community to educate the public about the benefits of global trade, which he said are largely invisible.
“How many times have you ever heard anyone say, ‘Thank God for international trade. I can buy more toys for my kid at the holiday season.’ There’s an enormous task of education if we are going to make this case that international trade works,” he said.
Before his remarks, Summers relaxed in a chair, from which he smiled and acknowledged members of the audience. The congenial atmosphere in the Arthur Anderson Auditorium was a marked departure from the hostile audience Summers faced earlier this week in Ohio.
Students at Oberlin College heckled and jeered the nation’s top economist, a former chief economist for the World Bank, during his 90-minute speech on Monday, as he laid out his views on how to aid developing countries.