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Commerce Secretary: Immigration reform would bring in $1.4 trillion

It's been around seven months since Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, worth nearly $2 billion from her career in business, started her term in the Cabinet. She's brought that private-sector experience to government, where she's stressing the importance of increasing exports and launching a "Look South" initiative.

On if current economic growth is enough

"I think we're on the right path but we have more work to do. We still have 7% unemployment and that is not an acceptable number. And that's why we're working so hard on all fronts: domestically, whether it's growing our own markets, making sure we improve exports, or inviting foreign companies to come invest in the United States to grow job opportunities, good job opportunities in this country. I think that as we address unemployment, consumer confidence grow. That will reflect in retail numbers, that will reflect then in manufacturing numbers. So it's all interrelated."

On the biggest complaints business leaders have 

"The top issues that I hear are about trade, give us more free-trade agreeements, help us trade, help us export. Because they realize how integrated the global supply chain is. Number two is immigration reform. The business community is really in favor of immigration reform. They feel it’s good for American business. … I think that the situation right now is sitting in the House. The Speaker needs to bring immigration reform to the floor and let the democratic process occur … I’m an optimist and I believe we can get this done in the first half of this year. $1.4 trillion of economic benefit will come to the United States over the next 20 years if we pass immigration reform.”

On if the business industry needs help from government

"There are many ways the American business and the government work together. And it's necessary that we in the government recognize, we have to move though at the pace of business. We have to be responsive, we have to provide the conditions so that American businesses can be successful. I think we need each other ... We provide many services ... we give you a patent or a trademark, census data, we provide American community service data, we give you your weather information. We need to make sure that all the work that we're doing ... that we're doing it in a format and a fashion and a pace that keeps up with American business. 

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.
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Why are you stumping for benefits for business at the expense of American workers? Free trade aka NAFTA has harmed workers on BOTH sides of the border, but yes benefited corporate interests.

The proposed immigration bill is anything but "reform", it is a complete and total surrender to the business and Latino special interest lobbies. It will crush the American worker with massive immigration and wage depression.

Would immigration surrender, and the population bomb that it sets off, increase GDP? Perhaps. But what about GDP PER CAPITA? (The standard of living) No way. We have more people that jobs now, adding people just makes that worse. But hey. the 1% want it so what the heck...

Mr. Ryssdal,

I enjoy your show and the overall balanced perspective you and the other Marketplace reporters take on your stories.

Your original point that this used to be the Department of Commerce and Labor was quite subtle. Secretary of Commerce Pritzker mentioned meeting with hundreds of business leaders, who of course would like more free trade. She didn't mention meeting with regular working people or their representatives. Increasing trade has worked out quite well for corporations, whose profits are soaring - but not as well for the average American, whose income has been shrinking.

We have seen 20 years of NAFTA, and it has not been helpful for American Manufacturing jobs. this article at Public Citizen has some helpful information: http://citizen.typepad.com/eyesontrade/2014/01/nafta-at-20-one-million-u....

With TPP and TAFTA in the wings and the administration pursuing fast track status, I wish you had taken the opportunity to ask how Secretary Pritzker might envision the economy working better for all Americans, not just senior executives at large corporations. Maybe next time?

Best Regards,
Laura

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