NAM Judges NAFTA 'A Big Plus'

By John S. McClenahen As anti-globalization demonstrators began to gather in Washington, D.C., this week in advance of the spring meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) was emphasizing NAFTA's "broad economic benefits" and asserting that imports of manufactured goods from Canada and Mexico did not contribute to the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs that began in 2000. "It is . . . difficult to look at the 2000-2003 period and conclude that the NAFTA agreement was a contributing factor in the decline of U.S. manufacturing employment, since manufactured goods imports into the United States from both Canada and Mexico actually fell after 2000," Frank Vargo, NAM's vice president for international economic affairs told a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on April 20. The panel was holding hearings on NAFTA's tenth anniversary. Vargo contended NAFTA was "a big plus" for the U.S. economy in the seven years following its implementation on Jan. 1, 1994. "Manufacturing jobs grew faster after NAFTA than before, real hourly compensation grew twice as fast, and productivity grew much faster as well," Vargo said. "While the agreement certainly is not solely responsible for the U.S. economic boom of the 1990s, it surely contributed. Exports were a driving force, and the NAFTA countries accounted for half of our entire worldwide export growth during the 1990s," he added.

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