Friday, October 21, 2016

NAFTA, which Trump calls 'a disaster,' was a Bush-Clinton project that boosted U.S. exports

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has said he will renegotiate or eliminate the North American Free Trade Agreement, signed in 1992 and ratified in 1993, calling it "one of the worst deals ever made of any kind signed by anybody. It’s a disaster." Trump claims NAFTA has cost jobs throughout the U.S. and hurt local economies. (U.S. Chamber of Commerce graphic)
While Trump blames the deal on Bill Clinton—thereby linking it to his competitor Hillary Clinton—it was actually initiated by President George H. W. Bush, and more Republicans than Democrats voted in favor of it, Adam Chandler reports for The Atlantic.

"So of what use is this talking point?" Chandler asks. "Well, for a candidate staking much of his presidential run on voters’ anger over America 'getting killed on trade' and courting factory-heavy swing states, the populistic invocation of NAFTA is extremely effective. To many working-class Americans, international trade is shorthand for economic distress. Trump’s statements have seized on this sentiment." In the first debate Trump chastised NAFTA by pointing to job losses in Michigan and Ohio, but since his numbers have fallen in Michigan, he switched Michigan in the third debate to battleground states Pennsylvania and Florida, as well as including upstate New York. He and Clinton are running neck-and-neck in Ohio but she has opened up small leads in Florida and Pennsylvania.

NAFTA accounts for about $1.225 trillion yearly—$662 billion between U.S. and Canada and $533 billion U.S. and Mexico—in direct trade across North America, Chris Clayton reports for DTN The Progressive Farmer. Agricultural interests generally favor foreign trade.

The U.S. had a $46.1 billion net trade deficit in 2015 under NAFTA, accounting for about 8 percent of total U.S. export volume of $575.6 billion last year, Clayton writes. The U.S. exported $337.3 billion to Canada in 2015 while importing $325.4 billion for an $11.9 billion trade surplus, while exporting $238 billion in goods to Mexico and importing $295 billion, a $58 billion trade deficit.

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