To listen to Senators Obama and Clinton, one would think that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was like a meteor hitting U.S. manufacturing. Now, these otherwise smart officials know better. In fact one of their leaders, Congressman Rahm Emanuel and the Chairman of House Democratic Caucus said
NAFTA is not the main reason workers today are hurting.
He was pretty clear what some of the issues facing manufacturing are and he called in a Wall Street Journal article for a “new social contract” dealing with health care, job training and other changes which would help workers facing global competition.
Congressman Emanuel is right about NAFTA of course and the senators are dead wrong. A recent survey The Manufacturing Industry conducted with Deloitte of manufacturers in the U.S., Canada and Mexico showed this fact clearly. Our survey showed that 49 percent of companies had found NAFTA to help their competitiveness; 10 percent said it hurt and the remaining 41 percent said it had no impact one way or the other.
Several recent articles, which are reality checks for Senators Obama and Clinton, discuss what NAFTA has wrought. In today’s Business Section of the Washington Post, an article by Michael Fletcher, Don’t Blame NAFTA for Downturn, Many Economists Say lays out the fallacies. Most interestingly, he concludes his article on the right note with a quote from a professor at American University who sagely notes that
NAFTA is not the issue. That debate is finished. What the candidates should be debating now is the future of North America. That requires them to look forward, not backwards to NAFTA.
Please, candidates, deal with the real issues facing America’s future.