Connecting People with International Trade – August 2021



Listening For America Team | Listening For America

Since 2018, the Listening for America team has engaged a diverse cross-section of Americans in informal conversations and focus groups on discussing their experiences with international trade and globalization. Please read about our findings and ways in which policymakers can most effectively address the needs of communities in today’s globalized economy.

From: Catherine A. Novelli, Listening for America President

Three years ago, I started discussing the idea of finding out what people outside the Washington DC Beltway from all walks of life thought about international trade and globalization. It had become clear to me when I traversed the country as Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment that there was a large disconnect between policy makers in Washington and everyone else. I talked with international trade experts from both political parties, academics, and colleagues who had nothing to do with trade, but were worried about the state of discourse in the United States. I was uniformly and enthusiastically encouraged to launch Listening for America.

This report is the outgrowth of two years of informal listening sessions and focus groups. I found that whatever preconceived ideas I had when I visited one of the 39 cities that we went to were not at all what I found when we actually talked with people. Most of the time the “conventional wisdom” of the pundits on these issues, for example, that “globalization” was seen as a bad thing, did not pan out in our conversations. We found people recognized the possibilities that globalization could bring and understood that the issues surrounding international trade were complex and often had questions about how to understand all that was happening. We also found cities that embraced the opportunities of globalization as part of their economic development strategy and were thriving. We also found cities that were struggling to find their place in the domestic and global economy.

We have attempted to not just distill what we heard, but also to suggest some recommendations for how to pursue a policy framework that will tangibly benefit Americans. Through the focus groups we conducted, the participants developed a narrative about international trade and globalization that resonated with them— reflecting the complexities and the issues that still need to be tackled.

Listening for America could not have happened without the sage advice of some of the truly eminent practitioners of international trade policy, who consented to be our Board of Advisors—Grant Aldonis, Former UnderSecretary of Commerce; Ambassador Peter Allgeier, Former Deputy U.S. Trade Representative; Rod Ludema, Former Chief Economist of the U.S. Department of State; Ambassador Charles Reis, Former Vice President for International at RAND Corporation; and Bruce Stokes, Former Head of International Trade at PEW and Trade Columnist for the National Journal. Thank you.

We owe an incalculable debt of gratitude to those who volunteered their time to conduct the informal listening sessions and observe the focus groups, most especially Kira Alvarez, who rolled up her sleeves and allowed us to go into each city and state very informed about the economic situation there. Thanks also to Ned Saums, Kathy Heetderks and Liz Jaeger each of whom helped build out robust schedules of meetings. Thanks to our incredible Board of Directors who provided perspective, advice and encouragement: Katrin Kuhlmann, Ann Martin, Sabeen Malik and Kira Alvarez. And special thanks to Phil Roos and GrowthWorks who conducted our focus groups with creativity and clarity and who continued to find a way for us to operate safely during COVID.


To read the full report from Listening For America, please click here.