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Real challenge to employment is new technologies: Former US commerce secretary

By He Wei in Boao, Hainan | | Updated: 2017-03-26 17:04

Blaming China as the culprit of unemployment in the United States is "solving the wrong problem", former US secretary of commerce Carlos Gutierrez said on Sunday.

To salvage its manufacturing sector, Washington should take a serious look at the technological breakthroughs dealing a heavy blow to traditional industries, rather than treating Beijing as a scapegoat, he said.

"US President Donald Trump has always wanted revive the manufacturing sector and bring back jobs. But the real challenge to employment is new technologies," Gutierrez told a packed audience during the Boao Forum for Asia 2017 Annual Conference.

"For instance, robotics is going to change the world and we are about to lose millions of jobs. It's not because of China, or NAFTA, or the immigrants," he said.

For a long time, the contributions of manufacturing to the US economy stood rather stable at 13 to 14 percent, Gutierrez noted. But the workforce has declined thanks to a wave of disruptive technologies that automate the manufacturing process.

Therefore, the US should not aim to bring back jobs of the past, featuring the old-fashioned thinking of the 1980s, he said.

"It's a problem of the past, and we are solving the wrong problem. New technologies are something we should really be looking into," he said.

"Bringing back jobs is not something the government can determine alone. You need to first convince US manufacturers and corporations," said Huang Jing, director of the Center on Asia and Globalization at the National University of Singapore.

He said the nature of China-US relations is one of unprecedented and irrevocable interdependence, and a single person or policy can't alter that foundation.

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