Free Trade Agreements and Jobs

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Felicia Sonmez, Washington Post congressional reporter and lead author of 2chambers, the Post's blog covering politics and policy on Capitol Hill, and Elizabeth Williamson, reporter for the Wall Street Journal, talk about the three free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, which the White House submitted to Congress yesterday after resolving a dispute over displaced worker assistance.

Comments [13]

jennifer Hilton from Brooklyn, NY

In understanding that the big winners are agriculture, pharmaceutical and potentially the auto industries - should we examine those wins much more closely? Who in agriculture wins? What does this do to the small family farm? What will happen in the countries we will trade with in those industries - does this impact their agricultural practices as they shift their eating patterns? Just as we are rebuilding the American auto industry - how many South Korean automobiles will flood the market, or worse, how many suppliers in America will lose an edge in producing parts here in America?

The immediate losers are clearly the American Made mainstream manufacturing positions. South Korea and Columbia will both be shifting locations for continued low cost imports, especially with growing changes in cost of production in China. These countries will be new locations for the import of textiles, home goods, toys, etc. the masses of general consumer products the economy depends upon, yet continues to outsource. Any remaining manufacturers in these categories will be hard hit by these new agreements. I am cautious about Free Trade as answer for the average American - convince me to believe otherwise.

Oct. 04 2011 12:13 PM


"When are we going to evolve past manufacturing and make jobs that push us into an educated service nation."

When you "evolve" to eat computer bytes and drive hard disks.

Oct. 04 2011 12:00 PM
John A.

'Clinton and Gore were lying through their teeth. '
Please elaborate. No judgement implied.

Oct. 04 2011 11:53 AM

Free trade helps those with capital to invest it in the place with lowest labor costs. The rich will get richer.
For average workers, however, it means accelerating the march toward a "global wage", which will bring up the standard of living in currently low-wage countries, and bring down the standard of living in currently high-wage countries, like the United States.

Oct. 04 2011 11:53 AM
nycidgirl from East Village

When are we going to evolve past manufacturing and make jobs that push us into an educated service nation. Why are we fighting the third world for uneducated jobs and cheap products. Educate the masses and employ them with a living wage.

Oct. 04 2011 11:49 AM

Columbia economist Jagdish Bhagwati is strong supporter of free trade (and very critical of Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, etc.) and he criticizes Clinton, Bush, Obama for making a sham of free trade.

Bhagwati, like Dean Baker, notes that the US is still protecting industries (like pharma) that have enough political clout. As the guest notes, corn is heavily protected.

Oct. 04 2011 11:47 AM
Nancy from Madison Ave

COBRA costs "up to $800 per month"? Try $2,000 a month for one parent and one child. Unsustainable!

Oct. 04 2011 11:45 AM

Is it a part of NAFTA agreement that products made within 50 miles of the border can be labeled "Made in USA"?

Oct. 04 2011 11:45 AM

This question is an absurdity. Anywhere this discussion takes place, it's a snow job, smoke and mirrors, and b_llsh_it.

There are more than enough Americans in this country to do any job that is required, and Americans are desperate, and sometimes literally dying, for productive work. Farming jobs out to other countries is never done for any purpose except to increase the wealth of upper management corporate America and their stock holders.

Farming jobs out to other countries should be considered a traitorous act and anyone responsible for doing so should be punished appropriately. All "free trade" agreements should be canceled immediately, and acknowledged as the American-destroying bulls_hit that they are.

Oct. 04 2011 11:43 AM


There medical services - like radiology - that were outsourced elsewhere. So, everybody is under pressure from globalization.

Another side of it is importation of cheap labor - including doctors - into this country.

Oct. 04 2011 11:40 AM

"Protectionism" means "to protect" - protect American jobs.

Somehow, American public is conditioned that this is a BAD word.

Oct. 04 2011 11:38 AM

Dean Baker and other economists have explained why "free trade" is a gross misnomer for these agreements. For example, Americans are not free to buy pharmaceuticals at MUCH lower prices abroad (in Canada, for instance). On the country, at the behest of big pharma, the US has clamped down on buying drugs abroad.

Likewise, there is little free trade in skilled labor. Blue-collar jobs are outsourced to Mexico, India, etc. Skilled laborers, like doctors and lawyers, see no such competition. Medical costs are so high that we are seeing a growth in people traveling tens of thousands of miles to get care they can't afford in the US.

Finally, there is absolutely no denying that the US lost jobs under NAFTA. Perot was right. Clinton and Gore were lying through their teeth. The criticisms raised at the time were proved exactly right.

What did _not_ happen under NAFTA was growth in better-paying jobs in Mexico.

The winners under NAFTA were not laborers, but capital. What a surprise under a political system which doesn't just serve capital first, but serves capital exclusively.

Oct. 04 2011 11:37 AM

Liberals and conservatives outsourced American jobs.

Liberals argued that these jobs would benefit the Third World masses and save the environment in this country.

Conservative loved the profits from disparity of wages - labor arbitrage.

We -- the middle class - are in the middle and got squeezed out.

Oct. 04 2011 11:34 AM

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