Manufacturers Take Aim at Presidential Candidates’ Anti-Trade Rhetoric
Trade continues to be a major topic in the campaigns of both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates.
“Unfortunately,” said Linda Dempsey, vice president of international economic affairs at the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), “the most oft-repeated claims are flat out wrong.”
NAM has started a social media campaign to dispel what it considers to be the top trade myths spouted in the political arena.
On the subject of free trade agreements, Dempsey suggested that candidates take aim at the hundreds of trade agreements being negotiated without the United States. “U.S. exporters face higher tariffs and barriers than most of the world’s exporters in other countries, ranking 130 out of 132,” she said, “because the United States has too few, not too many, trade agreements.”
FTAs are huge market-boosters for U.S. manufacturers, Dempsey claimed, “because they promote fair trade by leveling the playing field.”
“That’s why moving forward on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is so important to manufacturers in the Untied States,” she added.
Dempsey described criticism of the North American Free Trade Agreement as “an enduring but deeply flawed myth.” The U.S. experienced four years of economic growth and an increase of more than 800,000 manufacturing jobs after implementing NAFTA in 1994, she claimed.
“The recession in the late 1990s had a negative effect on the U.S. economy and jobs,” Dempsey said, “but, if anything, NAFTA helped the United States endure that downturn more successfully.”
Dempsey conceded that China has engaged in a number of unfair trade practices on its road to growing its manufacturing sector over the last 20 years and becoming the largest foreign supplier of manufactured goods to the United States. But portraying China as a trade villain, as politicians like to do, presents a one-sided picture.
“China has also become the third largest market for U.S. manufactured goods, from the seventh largest purchaser in 2002, the year after China joined the World Trade Organization,” said Dempsey. U.S. exports have grown over 350 percent to $89 billion in that period.
“There’s a long way to go in creating a fairer and more reciprocal U.S.-China commercial relationship,” Dempsey added, “but it’s a lot more complicated than the campaign promise of putting on new border taxes on Chinese imports, which would be contrary to U.S. international commitments and would likely result in even stronger retaliation against U.S. exports to China.”
On the issue of trade deficits, Dempsey noted that the U.S. sells more manufactured goods to its free trade agreement partners than it purchases from them.
“U.S. manufacturing output and exports have quadrupled over the last quarter century,” she said. “Trade, boosted by trade agreements, is helping to fuel our economy.”
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