Next week Americans will cast their votes, declare a President, and end the 2016 election. This election isn’t about who’s president though. That really doesn’t matter. It’s about policy, values, and unity as a country.

From the outside looking in, a US citizen in Hong Kong, it’s sad to see the direction the US is going. Both sides are polarized on many issues, but it seems isolationism is not one of them. Hillary and Donald have declared they’ll stop the TPP, protect jobs at home, and a variety of buzzword worthy issues that really don’t address the problems at hand.

The world is a competitive place and that competition is increasing. Over the next two decades we’ll see the emergence of competition from Africa. I predict from Nigeria and Kenya in particular. These new entrants, combined with Asia’s growing powerhouses, and the rise of the former Soviet Bloc are going to separate the men from the boys, so to speak, in globalism and competitiveness. America can’t sit idly and choose protectionism. We need to take the opportunity to improve our competitiveness factors including education and skills, tax code, trade partnerships, and the attraction/retention of global talent. These aren’t easy topics to discuss in the US, they’re often confused with negative factors. Improving education is a battle between schools, unions, and the public. Changes to the tax code always have losers, in the form of those who benefit from loopholes. Trade partnerships imply we’re allowing foreign competitors some form of advantage. Lastly, global talent means we’re taking jobs away from American talent. These points are all true, but the impact and benefit is grossly overstated. We need to challenge ourselves and our leaders to take drastic, strong steps towards restoring American competitiveness before it’s forgotten. Protectionism will keep our jobs, incomes, and lifestyles for awhile, but we are dependent on the global ecosystem. Without improving, we will eventually subject ourselves to other countries.

I’ve argued a lot here for global competitiveness and fighting against closing our borders, but I want to note it’s more than just trade and corporate competitiveness. Political policy also goes hand in hand with economic stature. When one looks around the world, the countries with the largest economies typically drive the agenda and policies. Forgoing international expansion, we allow China to take the drivers seat, a choice I would not make idly.

In closing, this is a rant more than an argument. As an American, I can feel the changes from around the world, how the country is saying enough is enough, and I want to say that’s not right. Sometimes the right decisions are the hard ones and this is a good example of when standing strong to the core values will pay off in the long term. America was founded to be open and free, changing that isn’t going to help.

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