Adkins: Current trade agreements handicap America

Burl Adkins

On Jan. 1, 1994, NAFTA passed and since then additional trade policies followed modeled after NAFTA. The results have left the U.S. economy and citizens disadvantaged in their ability to compete in world markets. The U.S. trade deficit and national debt have skyrocketed and household income levels have declined sharply, in large part due to these flawed agreements.

Yet, despite these flawed policies the first to get blamed for the loss of jobs in America are the manufacturers like GM, Ford, Chrysler, steel companies, etc. They are accused of allowing workers to be less productive and uncompetitive compared to their counterparts from around the world. Well, you can’t have it both ways, statistics tell us the U.S. worker is more productive than any other worker around the world and our industrial companies themselves are the most efficient in business today. Either we are the best and most productive or we are not. I believe we are the best. It is the poorly drafted U.S. Trade agreements that get in our way.

The very nature of an American is to be competitive. U.S. manufacturers and the ability of their employees to meet and beat their competitors is at the core of America’s DNA.

The very well respected PEW Research Center notes that Median Net Worth has stagnated since 1994 and the average American working family has far less real income than in 1994. It is time to recognize flawed trade agreements are the culprit and lower household income is a leading indicator of the result of poorly negotiated trade agreements.

NAFTA’s proponent, then President Bill Clinton said, “NAFTA will create jobs, good paying jobs for America.” President Clinton went on to say, “If I didn’t believe that I would not be supporting it.”

More than 20 years later, tens of millions of American families have lost jobs, self-respect, income, pensions, their homes and their healthcare benefits. Equally important, social unrest, divisions among citizens and increasing crime devastate our cities. The facts demonstrate minority citizens have taken the brunt of the financial pain.

The Pew Research Survey found that the vast majority of middle-class Americans say their financial well-being has been strangled over the past 10 years. Eighty-five percent of middle class wage earners say its tougher now than a decade ago to maintain living standards.

It’s time we get to the core of U.S. tax and trade policies that have driven the American dream from the grasps of most working Americans.

We have the ability to restore that promise, if we are willing to take a harsh look at U.S. trade and tax policies driving our country further down the road of financial instability.

The latest proposed free trade agreement is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, if passed it will deal another blow to our domestic auto industry and American manufacturing. This agreement will eliminate America’s 2.5 percent tariff on all manufactured goods and the 25 percent tariff tax on imported trucks.

If we do nothing, we run the inevitable result of destroying our nation by enslaving the American people with debt, from which they will never recover. In short, the playing field is riddled with trade policies that put America at a major trading disadvantage.

Our foreign competitors have closed their markets to U.S. imports or taxed them to a level of not being competitive. The American products allowed into their countries are subject to burdensome tariff taxes and duties. In brief, they make our products more expensive when sold internationally and theirs cheaper when sold in the U.S.

According to the Huffington Post, America has lost 1 million jobs to Mexico since NAFTA was signed into law in 1994.

The Economic Policy Institute states that between 2012 and 2014, 60,000 American jobs were lost, instead of the 70,000 American jobs expected to be created by the South Korea – U.S. Free Trade Agreement. Since China joined the WTO in 2001 more than 2 million U.S. jobs disappeared.

Burl Adkins is the founder of Global Technology Associates in Dearborn.