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Citing India, China challenge, Obama pushes for education

world Updated: Aug 10, 2010 11:01 IST

IANS
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For the second time in a week, President Barack Obama has pointed to the rise of India and China to ask Americans to produce more graduates to compete globally and regain its top status.

"From Beijing to Bangalore from Seoul to Sao Paulo new industries and innovations are flourishing; our competition is growing fiercer," Obama told a crowd at the University of Texas at Austin Monday.

"We need an economy that puts Americans back to work, an economy that's built around three simple words -- Made in America," he said amid applause. "Because we are not playing for second place. We are the United States of America... we play for first."

"I want us to produce eight million more college graduates by 2020, because America has to have the highest share of graduates compared to every other nation," he said arguing that education was an economic issue.

Noting that America had fallen from first place in college graduates to 12th place in a single generation, Obama called the status quo "unacceptable" but "not irreversible".

Earlier, at a Democratic party fundraiser too, Obama spoke of the growing competition from India, China and Germany to sell his economic agenda.

"After nearly a decade of economic policies that has given us little more than sluggish job growth, sluggish economic growth, falling incomes, falling wages, a record deficit," Obama said he had put in place a new economic plan focused on the middle class.

The plan, he said, was aimed at "making them more secure, and making sure that our country was competitive over the long run so the jobs and industries of the future weren't going to China or India or Germany, but were going to the United States of America, right here".

Obama's continued "portrayal of India as trying to take American jobs," however came in for sharp criticism from a noted US scholar who argued that it was "the wrong way to deal with India".

"Do as I say, don't do as I do. This is the message the Obama Administration and the Congress are sending to fellow democracy India," said Derek Scissors, research fellow in Asia Economic Policy at The Heritage Foundation.

"While correctly pressing India to liberalise trade and investment, President Obama continues to hector India on outsourcing, and the Congress has now turned the talk into ugly action," he said referring to Senate legislation to raise visa fees for high-skilled foreign workers.

"This was intended to target certain Indian companies by constraining American access to them," Scissors said arguing "there are strong reasons, in addition to the commercial ones, to engage more fully and equally with India, not punish it."

"India is a rapidly growing economy driven by its consumers. It is an American friend," he said.

"Picking on India, especially, tells the world the US commitment to open trade and investment is weakening, a message that will end up hurting both US foreign policy and our economy," Scissors warned.

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