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The plurality of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll—43 percent—says the North American Free Trade Agreement has been bad for the Rochester economy. This compares with 40 percent who say it has helped and 17 percent who say its effect has been neutral.
Jan. 1 was the 20th anniversary of NAFTA. The accord signed by the United States, Canada and Mexico was highly controversial, and debate over its impact continues.
NAFTA created a single market of 400 million people and one-third of the world’s output, according to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service. Key NAFTA provisions included tariff and non-tariff trade liberalization, rules of origin, services trade, foreign investment, intellectual property rights protection, government procurement and dispute resolution. NAFTA side agreements covered labor and environmental provisions.
Supporters such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce argue that under NAFTA, trade with Canada and Mexico has more than tripled to $1.2 trillion, supporting some 14 million U.S. jobs—including nearly 5 million net jobs generated by the increase in trade.
Opponents maintain NAFTA has cost jobs and increased income inequality in this country. Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, for example, says NAFTA is responsible for a net loss of 1 million U.S. jobs.
Nearly 60 percent of Snap Poll respondents say they have consistently supported free trade, and 14 percent have consistently opposed free trade.
Some readers have changed their views over the years. Nearly a quarter say they used to be
for free trade but oppose it now. And 5 percent used to be against free trade but support it now.
Roughly 250 readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted March 3 and 4. Of those, 38 percent are Republicans, 20 percent are Democrats and 42 percent identified themselves as non-affiliated or “other.”
Overall, has NAFTA been good or bad for the Rochester economy?
Has your assessment of NAFTA’s impact changed your view about free trade in general?
I used to be for free trade and still support it now. 58%
I used to be for free trade but oppose it now. 23%
I used to be against free trade and still oppose it now. 14%
I used to be against free trade but support it now. 5%
What is your political affiliation?
Too many of the jobs we sent to Mexico, people in the United States will not do!
—Harold Ley, Stony Point Business Connection
I wonder what Ross Perot would say about NAFTA today? From what I recall in the 1992 presidential campaign, he warned against the passage of NAFTA. He stated that if NAFTA was passed, the American public would “hear that giant sucking sound.” The giant sucking sound he was referring to was manufacturing jobs going to Mexico.
—John Rynne, president, Rynne, Murphy & Associates Inc.
It dismantled our local economy and its diverse manufacturing base—that NAFTA sucking sound that Ross Perot focused part of his 1992 campaign on, along with his plans to balance the federal budget, further economic nationalism, strengthen the war on drugs and implement “electronic town halls” throughout the nation for direct, transparent democracy. That was needed then, and NAFTA is but only one of Mr. Perot’s reasons why we need to take back our country now!
Judging by the horrible position we are in jobwise, it is a no-brainer. We were sold down the river!
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield
Rochester has taken a huge hit; just look at Eastman Kodak Co., Xerox Corp. and Bausch & Lomb Inc. They all started plants in Mexico when this first started and (took) the good-paying jobs with them. They were able to avoid environmental laws and get cheap labor. Those small companies left behind have a federal government piling regulations on them every year. The products that are imported from Mexico don’t get a tariff to bring them up to what the cost of doing business in the United States is. Mexico ends up with low-paying jobs and garbage dumped wherever.
More than 50,000 good jobs are gone in the Greater Rochester area since 1993. Side agreements on labor and the environment have been unenforceable, a fact lamented by Bill Clinton, who pushed NAFTA through. Trade surpluses turned into ever-increasing trade deficits with Mexico, and that is a fact. No matter how much we “trade,” if our trade deficits increase with a trade member, jobs are hurt and the costs to society for income inequality, equal opportunity, the tax base, upward mobility and poverty are severe and growing.
—Jim Bertolone, Rochester AFL-CIO
Free trade is all good. Just don’t let corporations hide their profits overseas.
Tariffs of any kind protect the jobs of a select, politically powerful few, and we never hear about the jobs in import/export that were never created. Also a hidden factor is the increased prices for the U.S. citizens for the goods we want made more cheaply in Mexico and Canada. It is better for the U.S. economy that our workers get better and more technical education to lead the world than for us to draft laws and tariffs that will protect us from the world.
—Clifford Jacobson M.D., Vanguard Psychiatric Services P.C.
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