Snapshot: Will outcome of new trade agreements be any better than NAFTA?

Last night, Congress passed a free trade agreement for the first time since 2007. In fact, it passed three.

Behind vast Republican support, the House and Senate approved trade deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. This came, of course, one day after Senate Republicans killed President Obama’s jobs bill. These trade agreements should be a boon for jobs, right?

Not so fast. Robert Scott, EPI’s Director of Trade and Policy Manufacturing Research, estimates that 214,000 net U.S. jobs will be lost or displaced in the first seven years under the FTAs with Colombia and South Korea.

“With 14 million unemployed, these deals will only further burden our domestic economy, which is already teetering on the brink of another recession,” wrote Scott in a statement today.

Supporters of the FTAs, however, claim the deals will create tens or hundreds of thousands of U.S. export jobs. That would sound great if it wasn’t so naive.

As Scott points out in this week’s snapshot, trade both adds to and subtracts from the demand for workers. While the growth of exports supports domestic employment, the increase of imports displaces American jobs. Scott says counting export jobs while ignoring imports is like “trying to run a business while ignoring expenses.”

In 1993, the Clinton administration also had high hopes for job creation when the U.S. and Mexico signed the North American Free Trade Agreement. They claimed NAFTA would “create an additional 200,000 high-wage jobs related to exports to Mexico by 1995.”

Before NAFTA, the U.S. had a trade surplus with Mexico. By 2010, the U.S. had a trade deficit with Mexico and had lost or displaced 682,900 jobs. Free trade, anyone?


  • Jerry Harvey

    What makes TPP any different than NAFTA. Why would the president be selling such a program. Who is going to benefit, big companies by sending jobs out of the country and reducing jobs for our people. This does not look good for America. Jerry Harvey