Jewish World Review Feb. 24, 2004 / 2 Adar, 5764
Help wanted: Free trade policies hurt working Americans
It turns out that the Bush Administration is not so optimistic about this year's potential for job creation, after all. The White House is now backing away from its seemingly unattainable projections of 2.6 million new jobs this year.
The Bush Administration's press secretary Scott McClellan blamed the pie-in-the-sky projection on bureaucratic "number crunchers" after Treasury Secretary John Snow and Commerce Secretary Donald Evans declined to endorse the forecast.
All of this comes not long after N. Gregory Mankiw, chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, was forced to back-peddle from his now infamous comments that the outsourcing of some U.S. jobs "is probably a plus for the economy in the long run." And that, "Outsourcing is just a new way of doing international trade. More things were tradable than were tradable in the past. And that's a good thing."
No one is surprised that the administration is rethinking its approach. It would be difficult, to say the least, convincing the millions of Americans who are unemployed because of corporate outsourcing and unfair free trade agreements that our "new way of doing international trade" is a good thing.
We have lost 3 million manufacturing jobs in the last three years. But despite the recent changes in its rhetoric, the Bush Administration continues its thoughtless pursuit of so-called free trade agreements.
"We were told that NAFTA was going to be the be all and end all, and Canada, the U.S. and Mexico were going to be this export platform, exporting to the rest of the world," says Kevin Kearns, president of the United States Business and Industry Council. "But, Canada, the U.S. and Mexico have massive trade deficits with the rest of the world 10 years into NAFTA."
The U.S. trade deficit with Canada and Mexico has exploded during that time, as well. In fact the combined U.S. trade deficit with Canada has increased from $9 billion in 1993 to more than $95 billion in 2003. And the Economic Policy Institute estimates that nearly 900,000 jobs have been lost as a result of NAFTA.
"Now we're being told that a scattershot series of trade agreements with whoever will sign up Chile, Singapore, Morocco, Thailand . (are) going to work where the past trade agreements have failed," says Kearns. "We have failure, after failure, after failure and we are compounding the failures by trying to negotiate new trade agreements."
Many American companies are choosing to invest heavily overseas, often times at the exclusion of domestic investment. The same month, for instance, the U.S. announced plans to negotiate a new free trade agreement with Thailand, Ford Motor Company announced plans with its joint venture partner Mazda to invest more than $500 million over three years to expand capacity at its plant there.
"We really need a new investment here," says Rob McKenzie, president of United Auto Workers, Local 879 at the Ford Twin Cities assembly plant. "And when I learned that they had made this really huge investment in a plant making the same product that we make in Thailand, I was very concerned about our future in manufacturing compact pick-up trucks."
McKenzie claims that even though the Ford Thailand plant does not currently export to the United States, with an investment that size it's only a matter of time until it does. And he says he's worried that, "when they start exporting to the United States, those would be jobs that my members would lose."
McKenzie is right to be concerned. We all should be. Those same advocates are trying to preserve the mindless free trade policies that have created a half-trillion-dollar current account deficit. And they suggest any critic of the unsustainable status quo is a protectionist.
We're not protectionists, but we do want to protect the interests of this country and of working men and women. Those interests happen to be one and the same.
What we want is fair trade, rational trade and to preserve the foundation of our nation's wealth. And yes, we want to preserve the truth.
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