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Fast Track to Lost Jobs: Trade Deficits and Manufacturing Decline are the Legacies of NAFTA and the WTO

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Abstract:

The U.S. has experienced steadily growing trade deficits for nearly three decades, and these deficits have accelerated rapidly since the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect in 1994 and the World Trade Organization was created in 1995.

The toll on U.S. employment has been heavy: from 1994 to 2000, growing trade deficits eliminated a net total of 3.0 million actual and potential jobs from the U.S. economy. Yet despite substantial evidence that current trade policies have resulted in massive trade deficits and job losses, the Bush Administration is pressing Congress for "fast track" trade negotiating authority, by which the President could submit trade agreements to Congress for a yes or no vote without amendment.

Fast-track promoters want this authority to make it easier to extend NAFTA throughout the hemisphere in a proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) agreement and to expand the WTO in a new round of multilateral negotiations. Promotion of fast track has even made its way into the post-September 11 debate over an economic stimulus. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Thomas has repeatedly urged that Congress include fast track authority in any economic stimulus plan.

The dismal U.S track record in negotiating trade agreements since the mid-1990s, as indicated by the nation's growing trade deficit and the attendant economic problems, suggests that a fast track is exactly what the nation does not need.