“Free Trade” and the Presidential Debate
|Written by Jake Johnston|
|Tuesday, 16 October 2012 16:38|
The second presidential debate will take place tonight at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. The topics will range from domestic to foreign policy, meaning the issue of “free” trade* is sure to come up. On this topic, there is little daylight between the two candidates. In 2008, candidates from both the Republican and Democratic Party participated in an “anti-NAFTA off”, competing in Rust Belt states that have lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), stated clearly after the election that the “results demonstrated Americans’ continued rejection of NAFTA style trade agreements."
In an election dominated by the urgent agenda of U.S. job creation, it is a sorry statement about the domination of corporate money in American elections that both presidential candidates tout these NAFTA-style "free trade" deals. Repeated polls show that opposition to these NAFTA-style deals is one of the only issues that unites Democratic, Republican and Independent voters.
And as for the trade agreements’ record on job creation? Not so good either, reports Wallach:
Obama's claim that the three trade deals are boosting exports does not survive a basic fact check. To start with, the Panama deal has not even taken effect. And, since implementation of the Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA), U.S. goods exports to Korea have declined by nine percent (a decrease of over $1.2 billion) in comparison to 2011 levels for the same months, while exports to Colombia since implementation of the Colombia FTA have barely increased (by $358 million). Under the FTAs, the United States has suffered a six percent fall in combined exports to the two new U.S. FTA partners.
*As CEPR has repeatedly pointed out elsewhere, these trade agreements cannot factually be labeled as “free trade,” as they increase costly protections, notably in the area of intellectual property, where the protections may raise the price of a commodity by as much as several thousand percent. By contrast, tariffs on manufactured items rarely raise the price by more than 20-30 percent.