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Are Free Trade Agreements Good for America?

By October 25, 2007

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Other than the Iraq War, the issue that most strongly divides the Bush administration and the 110th Congress may be free trade agreements. And free trade is an issue that crosses political party lines, both in Congress and across the country.

(See Pros & Cons of Free Trade Agreements.)

Our last two presidents... Republican George Bush and Democrat Bill Clinton... are both strongly enthused believers in free trade agreements as a way to both strengthen the U.S. economy and bring much-needed commerce to poorer, non-industrialized nations.

When President Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (with Canada and Mexico) on September 14, 1993, he grandly exuded:

"I believe that NAFTA will create a million jobs in the first five years of its impact... NAFTA will generate these jobs by fostering an export boom to Mexico...

"So when people say that this trade agreement is just about how to move jobs to Mexico so nobody can make a living, how do they explain the fact that Mexicans keep buying more products made in America every year? "

As NAFTA failed to live up to the golden promises of its supporters, the American people soured on free trade.

By 2004, USA Today reported:

"The survey by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes is one of the most comprehensive U.S. polls on trade issues.

It found that support for free trade fell in most income groups from 1999 to 2004, but dropped most rapidly among high-income respondents the very group that registered the strongest support for free trade in the past."

On May 11, 2007, Congressional leadership unveiled its "New Trade Policy for America", which requires inclusion in all new U.S. trade pacts of provisions protecting workers and environmental standards in all parties to the agreements, as well as certain other hot-potato protections.

This new trade policy statement, drafted jointly with the White House, was intended to draw a majority of bipartisan support from the Senate and House. But the vaguely written document pleased almost no one...

And the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month:

"By a nearly two-to-one margin, Republican voters believe free trade is bad for the U.S. economy, a shift in opinion that mirrors Democratic views and suggests trade deals could face high hurdles under a new president."

As of late October 2007, four free trade agreements or extensions are languishing, as President Bush vociferously goads Congress to pass these pacts with Peru, Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

The burning question is: Is free trade good for America? And is it good for its trading partners?

Democratic lawmakers are divided on the complex subject of free trade, as are Republicans. Most Americans, fed up with the outsourcing of millions of U.S. middle-class jobs to other countries, are uneasy with free trade agreements.

To help you quickly understand this important issue, I've written a new article, Pros & Cons of Free Trade Agreements.

And join me in the lively discussion about free trade agreements in Liberal Politic's Forum .

(Graphic: Symbol of the North American Free Trade Agreement)

Comments

October 25, 2007 at 4:49 pm
(1) gris says:

Clinton was dead wrong on NAFTA, GATT and the WTO (along with many other issues. He and his wife are Repulican-lites even though Shrillary is trying to distance herself from her DLC past.

October 27, 2007 at 12:39 am
(2) Veronica says:

I voted for Clinton twice, but this was possibly the worst thing he ever did–signing NAFTA into law. We’ve lost too many jobs because of this ill-advised law.

December 15, 2007 at 2:37 am
(3) cliff says:

all that we have seen from free trade agreements is what the critics predicted. american jobs lost, the standard of living in mexico has actually gone DOWN and the de valuation of the dollar. we need to get off this train before we hit a wreck we cant recover from.

July 20, 2010 at 10:32 pm
(4) Joe Merriman says:

Free trade has destroyed our economy and country.

October 1, 2010 at 4:27 pm
(5) Grouper says:

Free trade is the real reason for our current unemployment problem.
No stimulus can get our lost jobs back!

December 18, 2010 at 6:42 pm
(6) Jaramillo says:

I haven,t seen a made in USA tag on anything in years.
American industry has been outsourced. Reasons I believe are because of cheaper labor and not having to contend with the evironmental requirements we have in the USA translating to more profits for the outsourced buisnesses.

June 21, 2011 at 11:49 am
(7) bernie l yoksh sr says:

free trade
no jobs in america
in the 60,s -80 there were jobs=good jobs
my wife’s family lives in guilin china
they are doing good
our dollar is week
yes they want free trade=good for big business

we need people who are in government that want america strong again-
we do not need foreigners telling us what to do

June 30, 2011 at 8:50 pm
(8) Jose says:

Here we go again, more bad lousy tree trade agreements that only help the fat cats… Senator Kerry ? what is wrong with those people ? Didn’t they learn from NAFTA ?? Senator Kerry is saying that new free trade agreements will create jobs ? like NAFTA did ??
More free trade with poor countries so the fat cats can ship more American jobs there…
What is wrong with Democrats ? are they in corporations back pockets ? Democratic voters do not want more free trade, only the fat cats benefit… Sad, where the people raising hell about it ? They should be raising hell.

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