U.S. Urged to Help Firms in High-Tech Field : Global Position Fading Badly, Industry Warns

Associated Press

The United States must launch a strategy to bolster its electronics industry or see its wealth and power decline to the level of a second-rate industrial force, a chief industry representative said Wednesday.

The government must help firms compete against overseas companies and revive an industry that would power the growth of the entire U.S. economy, American Electronics Assn. Chairman Stephen Levy said. Otherwise, the economy will falter, with telecommunications, computers, semiconductor and other key electronics areas continuing a steady, five-year decline against their foreign competitors, said Levy, whose association represents about 3,000 electronics companies.

Electronics firms provide 12.5% of U.S. manufacturing jobs--the highest of any sector--and through innovation and price cutting buoy the growth and productivity of sectors ranging from automobiles to banking, he added.

From Surplus to Deficit

Yet in electronics trade, the United States has gone from a surplus of $7.4 billion in 1980 to an estimated deficit of $8 billion last year, he said, and the electronics trade deficit with Japan alone has risen from $8 billion to an estimated $18 billion over the five-year span.

"Restoring the health and vitality of the electronics sector is something we cannot put aside," said Levy, who also is chairman and chief executive of Bolt Beranek & Newman Inc., a computer research and consulting company in Cambridge, Mass.

He called for politicians to provide a vision of the information age like that which emboldened Americans for the moon project in the 1960s.

Speaking at a Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan news conference, Levy criticized Japan's trade practices less than most U.S. industry representatives who have recently visited Tokyo. Instead, he emphasized ways that the United States can recapture its economic vitality.

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