ANYBODY NOTICE TRADE EDUCATION DAY?

ANYBODY NOTICE TRADE EDUCATION DAY?

Regrettably, National Trade Education Day came and went last week without making much of a ripple in the national consciousness.

In announcing the designated date, Commerce Secretary William M. Daley had called on businesses, schools, and civic organizations across the country to participate in a day of coordinated, trade-related activities Nov. 10.In light of the upcoming World Trade Organization ministerial meeting in Seattle, Daley said, the administration wants ''every man, woman, and child in America, in every community, to understand that trade matters.''

Like so many other ''national days,'' the announcement seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

The Association of Women in International Trade (WIIT), a professional organization of nearly 750 women and men active in the field of international trade, had enthusiastically hailed what we hope will be an annual National Trade Education Day.

But it will take sustained efforts to make sure people understand the stake that they have in trade and why they should care about it.

The need to educate Americans about trade is abundantly clear.

According to the results of WIIT's third annual public opinion poll of American's attitudes about international trade, only 39 percent of those surveyed said they were very or fairly knowledgeable about trade.

Sixty-one percent said they were only a little knowledgeable or not knowledgeable at all about trade.

But not knowing much about trade doesn't mean that Americans are isolationist and inherently opposed to trade. To the contrary, 73 percent of those surveyed said the United States should continue to be a world leader, both economically and militarily.

When specifically asked about the U.S. role in the upcoming WTO ministerial, a majority of those polled, 56 percent, said America should play a leadership role in the WTO talks.

Those talks will begin in less than two weeks when trade ministers from 135 countries sit down in Seattle and try to launch a new round of negotiations to liberalize trade.

The ministerial will offer a unique and historic opportunity to focus the American public's attention on trade as never before. With leadership and education, public support for trade would undoubtedly rise.

In fact, our poll shows that providing the public with any information on trade - positive or negative - raises support for trade.

Based on the results of our poll, WIIT believes that Americans will support an ambitious outcome from the Seattle ministerial, especially once they understand better how international trade affects their lives.

WIIT did its part for National Trade Education Day on November 10 and will be at the WTO meetings, in force.