| President George Bush at the House of Representatives chamber in the Capitol building. (Reuters)
Miami, Feb. 1: Weeks before travelling to India, faced with the dim prospect that there may be no nuclear agreement to crown his visit, President George W. Bush has held out other incentives to sweeten his trip for Indians.
In his annual State of the Union address before a joint session of the US Congress last night, Bush held out the promise that he would fight protectionsim and keep America open to immigrants.
“In a dynamic world economy, we are seeing new competitors, like China and India, and this creates uncertainty, which makes it easier to feed people’s fears,” he said in a reference to worries here about outsourcing and the growing Asian demand for energy, which has pushed up petrol prices in the US.
“So we are seeing some old temptations return. Protectionists want to escape competition, pretending that we can keep our high standard of living while walling off our economy.
“Others say that the government needs to take a larger role in directing the economy, centralising more power in Washington and increasing taxes,” Bush said.
In a reference to the post-September 11 xenophobia and outsourcing-related complaints that immigrants are taking away American jobs, Bush said: “We hear claims that immigrants are somehow bad for the economy, even though this economy could not function without them.”
The President warned that “all these are forms of economic retreat, and they lead in the same direction ' toward a stagnant and second-rate economy.”
Instead of such retreat, Bush told Americans that “to keep America competitive, one commitment is necessary above all: we must continue to lead the world in human talent and creativity.”
He reminded Americans that “our greatest advantage in the world has always been our educated, hardworking, ambitious people and we are going to keep that edge”.
The President argued that “keeping America competitive requires an immigration system that upholds our laws, reflects our values, and serves the interests of our economy”, and reiterated his support for a guest worker programme to combat illegal immigration.
As part of a new “American Competitiveness Initiative,” Bush proposed increased federal spending on basic science research and more money for science education to help train up to 70,000 high school teachers in those fields.