Immigration and trade changes could boost economy, Fed presidents say

Federal Reserve presidents put an emphasis on immigration and trade policy during a speech at the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum last week in St. Louis.

St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard said that the United States could benefit “from a coherent macro-oriented immigration policy,” noting that Canada’s points system gives skilled immigrants priority.

“That would be a very positive way to look at immigration compared to the way it’s often described,” Bullard said. “It is a fantastic thing that people want to come to your country. We should channel all that energy to get good macroeconomic outcomes.”

Bullard said that it was crucial for the Federal Reserve to speak out about immigration and trade issues, saying that they wouldn’t be doing their jobs if they remained silent.

“Central bankers have said we need help, we need people to understand what we can do and what we can’t do,” Bullard said Friday. “Maybe this kind of framework will put the spotlight on that. These are the fundamentals, and the fundamentals have to change before we get better economic outcomes.”

Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan said that the U.S. needed to remain open to free trade but also needed to find a way to help workers who feel left behind by globalization. These workers often blame job loss on globalization, he said, when the real culprit is technology.

“More than at any time in my career, it’s hard for me to think of an industry that is not being disrupted,” Kaplan said. “Amazon is probably a more ferocious threat to people’s jobs than China.”

He added that the U.S. needed to improve vocational training and that leaders should step up to develop programs that help the workforce.

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