The Commerce Secretary told an international audience of port and harbor industry professionals that their efforts are essential to the economy.
"I don't think there's ever been a time more countries are engaging in trade and more countries are interested in trade and no where is that more true than right here in the U.S. Ninety-nine percent, 99 percent of our volume of overseas trade enters and leaves the U.S. by ship."
Gutierrez says as global trade and commerce develop, nations will have to address immigration problems. He says all developed countries are having demographic problems.
"So their population is aging, they're not adding enough people to their workforce. The population in Japan, for example, is not growing fast enough. Many European countries are not growing fast enough, so they need to turn to immigration to be able to have a workforce that will enable them to grow. In our case, our working age population is growing at about .3 percent per year. So if we somehow stopped immigration today, our workforce would grow at .3 percent, and there is no way that we're going to grow our economy at three percent if our workforce is growing at .3 percent."
The Commerce Secretary says the first thing at stake in the immigration debate is whether we'll be able to grow our economy.
"It's very ironic that we convince the world to open up. And now, we are having second thoughts and having to convince others that we should not be withdrawing."
Gutierrez says the Bush administration remains committed to its globalization efforts.
"Please know that we remain committed to that vision--a vision of trade, of engagement, of opening up the world, of trading with each other, and as you and the president has said, countries that trade with each usually don't fight with each other."
Gutierrez told the International Association of Ports and Harbors attendees that trade agreements and immigration reform can help ensure that U.S. ports are busy, efficient and easy to navigate. Ed Mayberry, Houston Public Radio News.