Intel chief pushes competition, not protection

While the political establishment frets about outsourcing and offshoring, Intel Corp. CEO Craig R. Barrett was in town to argue for the country to get more competitive and less protectionist.

'As a nation, we have to choose to be competitive,' said Barrett at a press breakfast this morning. That means greater investments in and improvement of public K-12 education and the telecommunications infrastructure. He also supports a doubling of the National Science Foundation's budget to let more dollars flow to academic basic research in computation and physical science.

Barrett's other advice to lawmakers, some of whom he was to meet with today, is, 'Do no harm.' One policy with a harmful effect, he said, is the tighter visa restrictions stemming from the antiterrorism effort.

'The number of foreign students in [U.S.] colleges is down' since Sept. 11, 2001, he said.

So far, mostly lower-level IT jobs have been outsourced to India, China and Russia, he noted. 'They're not creating new business or new products.'

But that will change as those nations'which represent a doubling of the people on Earth working under free-enterprise economies'increase their numbers of educated citizens. At that point, they will be far fiercer competitors of the United States.

'The political debate is discouraging,' Barrett said. 'It is focused on protection. That's not a discussion you see in professional tennis or football or basketball. The real issue is, what do we need to compete?'

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