Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How's NAFTA Working? Ask the People in Avis, Pa

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How's NAFTA Working? Ask the People in Avis, Pa

Article excerpt

IN Miami over the weekend, President Clinton justified his call for the spread of "free trade" agreements across the Western Hemisphere by declaring that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been a tremendous success. By the end of this year, the Clinton administration boasts, NAFTA will create 100,000 new jobs.

The problem is that the administration offered no evidence to support this claim. The job projections were based on the assumption that NAFTA would improve the US trade balance with Mexico. This hasn't happened. While US exports to Mexico indeed have increased during the past year, US imports from Mexico have risen even faster, wiping out any job gains that might have come from exports.

The administration's claims of 100,000 new jobs are repeated by USA*NAFTA, the corporate pro-NAFTA lobby, in a new state-by-state analysis of NAFTA's impact entitled "NAFTA: It's Working for America." Our thorough analysis of the report reveals that only 535 jobs can be traced to NAFTA. Moreover, the largest job creator cited in the study -- Zenith, with 300 jobs -- is an even larger job destroyer under NAFTA. The Department of Labor determined this month that a Zenith layoff of 430 workers in Missouri resulted from a shift of production to Mexico.

The laid-off Zenith workers qualify for a program set up under NAFTA to provide retraining and other benefits to workers who lose their jobs as the result of the agreement. So far, more than 30,000 workers have petitioned for such assistance and 12,122 have been certified. Since many laid-off workers are not even aware of the program, the AFL-CIO estimates that the actual number of NAFTA-related layoffs is closer to 38,000. When presented with these figures, a US Commerce Department spokesman replied meekly that it is easier to count jobs lost than jobs created.

With all these figures flying about, it's important to remember that the debate over free trade is not just about abstract numbers. …

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