SINCE Laura D'Andrea Tyson was chosen by President-elect Clinton to chair the Council of Economic Advisers, interest has surged in her new book - "Who's Bashing Whom? Trade Conflict in High-Technology Industries."
The book provides a relatively explicit picture of her positions on competitiveness and trade. Ms. Tyson hits one issue right on the head: With the end of the cold war, whatever technological edge has accrued to the United States from military spending will have to be achieved through other means.
When the battle lines are drawn, with free traders on one side and those interested in government-led measures promoting trade and competitiveness on the other, Tyson must be included with the latter camp: "Foreign promotional and protectionist measures have inflicted substantial harm on American producers," she writes. "Some of America's most innovative companies, such as Motorola, Cray, Intel, and Boeing, have lost market share, revenues, and potential for creating high-paying jobs for American workers ."
Tyson advises an "aggressive unilateralism" on questions of market access for US manufacturers. "The US should continue along the path it pioneered in the 1980s: sector-specific negotiations with particular trading partners to secure improved trade and investment opportunities." Tyson also argues that Section 301 of the US trade law and its temporary Super 301 variant are an effective and necessary means "to reduce foreign market barriers and increase competition."
Case studies are used to illustrate how the government has prodded and pushed technologies forward. In the case of the US aircraft industry, for example, technological advances accomplished in designing military planes brought numerous advantages to companies that also manufactured civilian airliners.
The book leads off with a litany that sounds strikingly similar to the recent presidential campaign. The "anemic productivity growth, falling real wages, a woefully inadequate educational system, and declining shares of world markets for many high-technology products" are the same brickbats Mr. Clinton lobbed at President Bush.
While Tyson's claim about declining shares of technology markets is certainly true - from 1970 to the present, the US share of technology exports dropped from 29.54 percent to about 20 percent - the first item on her list (anemic productivity growth) is not as frightening. During the same period, among the US's major industrial competitors, only Japan and the newly industrializing countries of Southeast Asia have made significant gains against the US in productivity. And the Japanese are still only 80 pe rcent as productive as US workers.
Tyson reaches back to Abraham Lincoln for a pointed phrase that prefaces the book: "The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present." Lincoln's words, viewed in this context as heralding a beefed up "aggressive unilateralism," may portend several rocky years on the trade front.