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How "Free" is the North American Free Trade Agreement?

Written By: Christine Dantz

The word free should set off bells for how often it misleads people, and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) doesn't disappoint in this unfortunate trend. This nifty-named acronym packs more power than a Mike Tyson knockout.

Is this the sound of NAFTA's effect on the U.S. economy?

Born under the ruse of more bang for your buck to American businesses in 1994, the agreement holds some responsibility for killing America's middle class, or at least putting it on life support. It also hasn't done much to help the overall wages of any member country's hourly employees.
When pitching NAFTA in 1992 and 1993, America's leaders made many promises to the people:

  • President George H.W. Bush during the Presidential Debate in October 1992, ". . . the thing that saved us in this global economic slowdown is in our exports. And what I'm trying to do is increase our exports. And if, indeed, all the jobs were going to move South because of lower wages, there are lower wages now and they haven't done that. And so I have just negotiated with the President of Mexico; the North American Free Trade Agreement; and the Prime Minister of Canada, I might add, and I'm -- I want to have more of these free trade agreements. Because export jobs are increasing far faster than any jobs that may have moved overseas; that's a scare tactic because it's not that many. But anyone that's here, we want to have more jobs here and the way to do that is to increase our exports."
  • President Bill Clinton prior to signing the NAFTA, "I believe we have made a decision now that will permit us to create an economic order in the world that will promote more growth, more equality, better preservation of the environment, and a greater possibility of world peace. We are on the verge of a global economic expansion that is sparked by the fact that the United States lit this critical moment decided that we would compete, not retreat."
  • Representatives for General Electric testified before a House Foreign Affairs Committee in October 1993, "…that sales to Mexico 'could support 10,000 jobs for General Electric and its suppliers." In fact the Labor Department certifies that G.E. has laid off 2,304 workers because of NAFTA -- 2,108 of them because of a 'shift in production to Mexico.'"
  • Research by the Peterson Institute for International Economics told the public, "U.S. farmers would export their way to wealth. NAFTA would bring Mexico to a first-world level of economic prosperity and stability, providing new economic opportunities there that would reduce immigration to the United States. Environmental standards would improve."

Ross Perot may have said it best in the Presidential Debate of 1992 (watch the video):

Ross Perot in 1992 on NAFTA and the "Giant Sucking Sound"

Over twenty years later and the trail of destruction across the North American continent's people, economy, and environment should speak volumes of its own. Nonetheless, this smoke and mirrors show is still pulling the wool over many voters' eyes.

Here are the numbers, use this information to decide if NAFTA's use of "free" is just another illusion of big government and big business:

  • Over a 750,000 U.S. factory jobs were lost to NAFTA
  • Reduced wages continued to hurt two out of every three re-hired factory employees in 2012
  • Contributed to an $800 million trade deficit with Mexico and Canada
  • A 65 percent rise in the price of food in the U.S.
  • Helped increase auto manufacturing in Mexico to 3.2 million vehicles annually (at the cost to American auto jobs in Michigan)
  • Contributed to increased fossil fuel use, destructive mining, chemical pollution, along with the failure to protect the land, air, and water from pollution
  • Most of the jobs created in the U.S. from NAFTA didn't compare to the lost manufacturing wages

Maybe more people should have listened to Ross Perot on NAFTA.

The graph shows that there have been a cumulative total of almost 29 million jobs exported over the past 19 years
The graph shows that there have been a cumulative total of almost 29 million jobs exported over the past 19 years


Other Articles of Interest:

'Made in the World' vs. 'Made in America:' What Does It All Mean?

Globally Voting Our Displeasure at the 'Global Elite'

Manufacturers Agree: America's Infrastructure is a Problem

A Lesson in History: Remembering the Power of a Simple Pencil

Cotton Products "Made in China:" Is Your Baby Safe?


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