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CEA's Shapiro: Constraints on Free Trade Hurt CE Industry

7 Jan, 2008 By: Erik Gruenwedel

LAS VEGAS—With 406 days until the U.S. government mandates transition from analog signal to digital television, the domestic market for consumer electronics appears strong, according to Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).
br>Speaking prior to the opening International CES keynote, Shapiro said broadband connections in U.S. homes grew 22% in 2007, and sales of portable GPS navigation devices lead all CE products with a 145% increase in 2007.
br>Shapiro said the CEA projects sales of consumer electronics in the United States will top $171 billion in 2008, up 6% from nearly $162 billion in 2007. He said the average American home now contains 25 consumer electronics devices.
br>“Even with an uncertain economy, consumers continue to demand our products,” Shapiro said.
br>Indeed, Shapiro warned the upcoming presidential election, concerns about immigration and the credit crunch have resulted in emerging political winds favoring protectionism over free trade.
br>“Never before have I been as concerned that some in our country might hurt our leadership of the digital revolution,” he said. “We hear thunderous voices in the media, in Congress and even among presidential candidates advocating protectionism as a solution to American economic woes.”
br>He said free trade is critical to the CE industry and U.S. technological leadership. It allows innovation to flourish, encourages the free flow of ideas and enables the United States to attract innovators from around the world. In 2006, exports of U.S.-made technology products surpassed $220 billion.
br>“Those purchases accounted for 20% of total U.S. exports, making high-tech America's largest export sector,” Shapiro said.
br>He admitted free trade can cause job dislocations (outsourcing) and that unencumbered technologies and services designed to connect people also can be used for identity theft and commercial piracy.
br>Indeed, Shapiro said a CEA consumer study found 69% of respondents think foreign trade is good for the U.S. economy.
br>“International trade allows us to access new ideas and products we wouldn't otherwise have,” he said. “Free trade eliminates tariffs and makes transactions transparent and allows companies of any size to support good American jobs.”
br>Shapiro pushed for attendees to urge their local Congress representatives to approve pending free trade agreements. He implored the Democrat controlled Congress to allow President Bush to negotiate free trade agreements.
br>CES 2008 runs through Jan. 10 in Las Vegas.

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