EDITOR'S NOTE: The original story misstated the name of the Manufacturing Council of the U.S. Department of Commerce, when it was created and its mission. It was formed in 2004 and re-chartered in July 2010 to promote U.S. manufacturing and manufacturing exports.
DETROIT -- Lynn Tilton, outspoken owner of several auto parts suppliers, said the United States needs a healthy dose of protectionism to revive the country's decimated manufacturing base.
Her views, expressed during a panel on national industrial/manufacturing policy at the Automotive News World Congress, clashed with those of panelists Paul Ingrassia, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist; and U.S. Rep. John Campbell, R-Calif.
They advocated general tax cuts and free trade to reverse the manufacturing decline.
Tilton said that to add jobs, the United States must develop a manufacturing policy that promotes fair trade rather than free trade. She also favored policies that impose tariffs on foreign companies that use subsidies in their home countries to dump products in the United States.
Tilton, who built her career investing in distressed companies, said manufacturers that sell products in the United States should make those products here.
"The truth is every other country is protecting their own," said Tilton, whose private-equity firm, Patriarch Partners, bought Dura Automotive Systems last year. Patriarch owns or controls 74 companies with more than 120,000 employees.
Ingrassia countered: "The government is not good at picking winners."
He said recent U.S. subsidies to ethanol producers and to a 1993 automaker consortium to explore and promote alternative energies were largely wasted, while free-market efforts, such as those by Toyota Motor Corp. to develop the popular Prius hybrids, proved a better path.
Campbell, a former auto dealer in California, said businesses need consistent tax policies to invest in plants and create jobs.
The recent vote to extend federal tax cuts for two years, rather than make them permanent, sends the wrong message to business owners who need to predict the costs they will face over time, he said.
Panelist Joseph Anderson Jr., CEO of supplier TAG Holdings, is vice chairman of the Manufacturing Council of the U.S. Department of Commerce, which was created in 2004 to promote U.S. manufacturing and manufacturing exports. He said that if the United States could get even a modest increase in the number of U.S. manufacturers that export, it could put people back to work.