U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said the United States is not just a market for foreign companies to sell into but to invest in as well.
In a satellite TV address to a conference of Indian business leaders gathered in Santa Clara, Calif., Clinton said Friday that many global businesses are eager to sell to American consumers, while at the same time American jobs are being exported to lower-wage countries.
Offshoring eliminates good-paying jobs in the United States and threatens the middle class, she said. While the United States accounts for only 5 percent of the world's population, it accounts for about 20 percent of the world's gross domestic product, a measure of economic activity.
"Countries around the world rely on our marketplace, and Americans are literally fueling economic growth throughout the world," Clinton said. "We can promote shared prosperity and a race to the top, not to the bottom."
Rather than just sell to Americans, foreign companies should establish business operations in the United States, which has a highly educated and highly productive workforce and efficient capital markets, Clinton said. "I have serious concerns about creating good jobs right here in the United States."
The Democratic candidate's audience was an estimated 4,000 attendees at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) 2007 Global Conference, which concluded a three-day run Sunday. IIT, an engineering and science school founded in 1950, operates seven campuses throughout India. The alumni association, PAN IIT, hosted the conference. Of 100,000 IIT alumni, 25 percent of them live and work in the United States.
Clinton was the only one of the 2008 U.S. presidential candidates to accept an invitation to speak at the conference, organizers said. The group is trying to take a more proactive role in public policy issues.
"I think our political involvement has lagged behind our overall presence and economic involvement in the country. I'm glad our political activity is catching up to what it should be," said Rajat Gupta, former managing director of the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. and a conference organizer.
The Indian business group won Clinton's support for increasing the number of H1-B visas granted annually in the United States to 115,000 from 65,000 now. Some U.S. companies say they need to hire highly skilled engineers from India and other countries because of a shortage of them in the United States. Unfortunately, that increase was one of many provisions in the immigration reform bill that died in the U.S. Congress June 28. PAN IIT hopes the H1-B increase can be brought back as a separate piece of legislation.
Clinton also called for encouraging American students to study math, engineering, and science to prepare them for more tech industry jobs in the future. She also called for specific outreach to female and minority students kept under a glass ceiling preventing them from advancing to good-paying tech jobs.
"I think that's important. In fact, I'm trying to break a very high and very hard ceiling myself," she said.