Most readers say free trade pacts are good for the United States
More than half-60 percent-of readers participating in this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll think free trade accords such as the North American Free Trade Agreement have been good for the United States.
Free trade has been an issue in every presidential race since the early 1990s-and this year’s election is not likely to be an exception. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, for example, has said NAFTA needs to be amended, and has linked his opponent, Sen. Hillary Clinton, to former President Bill Clinton’s support of NAFTA. Sen. John McCain, the likely Republican nominee, says he is very much in favor of free trade agreements.
The United States today has free trade agreements with 14 countries, and three more pacts have been negotiated but need congressional approval. NAFTA, which came into effect in 1994, eliminated the majority of tariffs on products traded among the United States, Canada and Mexico. On Jan. 1, the final provisions were fully implemented.
More than half the respondents said over the past decade they have been continually supportive of free trade. Roughly 20 percent, however, used to back free trade but now oppose it.
Roughly 350 readers took part in the poll, conducted Feb. 18 and 19.
In general, do you think free trade agreements such as NAFTA have been good or bad for the United States?
Over the past decade, how-if at all-has your general opinion of free trade changed?
59% I used to be for free trade and still support it now
22% I used to be for free trade but oppose it now
14% I used to be against free trade and still oppose it now
4% I used to be against free trade but support it now
Do you think increasing globalization is helping or hurting your business?
We are one of the highest per-capita exporting regions in the country. Both the country and the region would be worse off without free trade.
-Jim Haefner, Pittsford
I feel we should be vigilant to not let the cards be stacked against the U. S. in seeking free trade. We should seek opportunities to increase manufacturing in the U.S. and to minimize trade deficits.
-Joe Cameron, Cameron Computers Inc.
Globalization is no different than when the mills moved from New England to the Carolinas or when televisions moved from the U.S. to Japan. Manufacturing always chases low-cost labor. These migrations have always provided huge opportunities for American innovation and will continue to do so. Deal with it and thrive.
-Ted Wurzburg, NorthCoast Partners
Not too many years ago we peaked at about 250 electricians working at Eastman Kodak Co. As of today we have one electrician on-site. Free trade does not appear to have helped our local highly skilled craft labor.
-Victor E. Salerno, CEO, O’Connell Electric Co.
I think we have proven throughout history that efforts to block free trade in order to preserve a nation’s personal wealth never work. There is no doubt that free trade may cause some redistribution of wealth. Even as the worldwide “pie” grows it is possible that the U.S. piece may not grow as quickly and hence we lose ground on a relative basis. But we have to compare that to what the realistic alternatives are. Not to what we wish they were or what we have historically experienced.
-John Ward, E. Phillip Saunders College of Business, RIT
Free trade can be good if it goes both ways. But what tends to happen is their goods come in free and ours go into their country with taxes and tarrifs added to them. The best example is wine going to Canada. The Canadians have provincial taxes that are added to our wines. This is a way of circumnavigating the free trade agreements. So our wines end up with a 140 percent tax before they hit the shelf. Where Canadian wine gets a 17 cent per gallon (tax)-the same tax I pay-coming into this country.
-Scott Osborn, Fox Run Vineyards
It is not possible to repeal the laws of supply and demand by drawing a line on a map. There is a big supply of labor beyond our borders that is out-competing American workers. … Latin countries compare very favorably to American workers in terms of effort and skill. Americans’ only advantage is availability of capital. I’ve had experience in both places, and that’s the way it is.
-Jim Cronin, Classic Fashion Resources Inc.
02/22/08 (C) Rochester Business Journal