NAFTA Bashing Is More Than Mere Rhetoric

Free-trade criticism on the presidential campaign trail could ignite protectionist policies in the next Congress.

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Rod Hunter, an analyst at the Hudson Institute, looks at the implications and reality of anti-NAFTA rhetoric on the campaign trail (all boldface mine):

If one of the Democrats wins the White House, he or she may find that the antitrade tirades delivered carelessly this year will, by next, have unleashed protectionist forces not easily controlled. ... Back in 2004, Ben Bernanke, then a Federal Reserve governor, looked at Bureau of Labor Statistics data stretching back a decade and pointed out that about 15 million jobs were lost and 17 million created each year—an annual net creation of nearly two million jobs. What's more, only about 2.5% of the jobs lost were a result of import competition. The vast majority of jobs lost were caused by changes in consumer tastes, domestic competition, and technology.... Rather than trying to shut the world out, however, the next administration needs to pursue the domestic reforms necessary to ensure that American workers can thrive in the knowledge economy. These include shoring up our education system, clearing obstacles to worker mobility by making health care and pensions portable, and replacing the hodgepodge of displaced-worker assistance programs with a single support, training and relocation system. The American worker, not the job, is the national asset.