There probably isn’t very much that Dit Williams, owner of
the World of Clothing, and I agree on. He comes from the right political
universe and I come from the left, sorta. But in any universe, things
sometimes collide and our political planets have definitely crossed
on one subject—NAFTA. Years ago, when NAFTA was given the
breath of life by President George Bush, Sr. and a stroll around
the block by President Clinton, I had serious misgivings about the
end result of opening an unregulated trade door to a corporate system
whose only moral compass was profit. The promises in this massive
document were many including creating hundreds of thousands of high
paying U.S. jobs and raising the living standards for all three
countries involved thereby creating new booming markets for U.S.
goods. Amidst all the shiny penny promises, though, I couldn’t
shake a nagging doubt—If they make it cheaper over there,
who will pay us to make it over here? If nobody pays us to make
it over here, how will we buy what they are making over there? As
I remember, Ross Perot had similar misgivings.
This past January marked the tenth anniversary of the NAFTA agreement.
To celebrate the event, Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney
along with former Presidents George Bush and Carlos Salinas joined
current President George W. Bush at the Ronald Reagan International
Trade Center in Washington D.C.
According to Scott Miller, staff writer for the Washington File
(U.S. State Department), “Bush said he regarded the signing
of NAFTA as one of the proudest moments of his presidency. Rather
than precipitating “a giant sucking sound” of lost U.S.
jobs, as some critics predicted, the agreement was a ‘palpable
step forward to greater prosperity and stability across the region…’”
Perhaps the former president doesn’t get out of Kennebunkport,
Maine very often these days.
Since it would take an entire issue of Prime Times to list all the
plant closings in North Carolina that have contributed to the “greater
prosperity” of our state since NAFTA, let’s compare
the promises to the reality. The following information was taken
from an excellently resourced article by Public Citizen’s
Global Trade Watch. (www.tradewatch.org)
First, a little background.
NAFTA is a lot more than a trade treaty . It is a 900 page agreement
that requires conformity to a single set of domestic laws--whether
or not the voters in those countries approved them or not. NAFTA
requires “limits on the safety and inspection of meat sold
in grocery stores, new patent rules that raised medicine prices,
constraints on local government’s ability to zone against
sprawl or toxic industries and elimination of preferences for spending
your tax dollars on U.S. made products or locally grown food.”
NAFTA’s “core provisions grant foreign investors a remarkable
set of new rights and privileges that promote relocation abroad
of factories and jobs and the privatization and deregulation of
essential services, such as water, energy and health care.”
It also made a lot of promises.
Promise: NAFTA will result in a U.S. trade surplus
Reality: Our modest trade surplus with Mexico is
now a huge deficit and our deficit with Canada is five-fold. In
2002, the total U.S. trade deficit was a staggering $436 billion
with 20% of this total due to deficits with Canada and Mexico.
Promise: The trade surplus from NAFTA will create
170,000 jobs every year.
Reality: The 170,000 jobs projection was based
on the assumption there would be trade surpluses. There has been
none. In 2000 The Economic Policy Institute concluded that NAFTA
had already cost the United States 766,000 jobs and job opportunities.
Promise: The new jobs created by NAFTA will be
higher paying jobs.
Reality: Workers who lost high-wage, benefits-paying
jobs have only found new work in service sector positions that pay
23-77 percent less than previous positions. Interestingly, even
though we haven’t returned to the peak hourly wage of $13.36
in 1973, U.S. Corporate profits rose by 88% in the 1990’s
alone and CEO pay rose by 463 percent.
Promise: The U.S. will become a nation of high
tech, highly paid professionals.
Reality: Three million high tech and professional
jobs are forecast to be “outsourced” to cheaper labor
overseas in the next ten years.
Promise: The U.S. will shed its inefficient industries
in favor of streamlined efficient ones.
Reality: The nation’s largest employer is
now Walmart and pays an average wage of $7.50/hour. The “inefficient”
industries were the manufacturing jobs that paid a living wage.
“NAFTA’s record speaks for itself,” Bush [Sr]
declared. The Washington File report continues, “Mulroney
concurred with Bush on the benefits of NAFTA, and supported his
view that many critics of the agreement were misguided, ‘The
fear-mongering of those who predicted massive losses of jobs the
curtailing of sovereignty, and a race to the bottom in environmental
and social policy have all proved hollow. Our countries are stronger,
our economies more robust, our peoples more prosperous, our social
structures more resilient, our capital markets more stable, our
roles in the world more vigorous as a result of NAFTA…it is
now our responsibility to share that success.’” (12-09-03)
President George W. Bush and others are leading the initiative to
spread this “prosperity” to others. They hope to expand
it to 31 more countries in Latin America and the Caribbean through
the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and five Central
American countries through a Central American Free Trade Agreement
(CAFTA). Just this week, even though the economy has lost 2.8 million
manufacturing jobs since President Bush took office, the White House
released a report praising ‘outsourcing’ jobs. The report
said, “When a good or service is produced more cheaply abroad,
it makes more sense to import it than make or provide it domestically.”
Is there a solution for the rest of us who see NAFTA for what it
really is, The Big Con? Last week, on my travels down I-85, just
past the peachoid in Gaffney, I was pleasantly startled to see a
huge billboard with the following bold message:
Lost your job to layoffs and outsourcing yet? Vote.
To my readers: If you ever wonder if I get
comments on these columns, I do occasionally. What are your thoughts
on the matter?
opinions stated in this page are those of Ms. Eva Ritchey and do
not necessarily represent the views of CyTech Computers & Internet