The supporters of our trade policy rarely mention our exploding trade deficits. In just 15 years, our annual trade deficit has mushroomed to over $800 billion from $38 billion in 1993. With Mexico, our trade surplus evolved into a $90.7 billion trade deficit. With China, our trade deficit jumped to $250 billion today from about $22 billion. President George H.W. Bush once estimated that a $1 billion trade deficit represents 13,000 lost jobs. Do the math.
Advocates of free trade rarely want to debate the fact that unregulated trade with China has recently allowed toys with lead paint, contaminated toothpaste and poisonous pet food into this country. We take for granted our clean air, pure food and safe drinking water. But these blessings are not by chance: They result from laws and rules about wages, health and the environment. Trade agreements with no rules to protect our health, the environment and labor rights inevitably create a race to the bottom and weaken health and safety rules for our trading partners and for our own communities.
But cheerleaders for current U.S. trade policy, while mostly shrinking from a debate about the issues that matter to middle-class America, insist that those of us who want more trade – but trade under a very different set of rules – are protectionists.
Now, let's take these issues one at a time. First, in the time period Brown mentions, our economy also grew exponentially and the unemployment rate stayed below 5% more than it stayed above. His doom and gloom scenario simply doesn't mesh with the facts. If free trade with Mexico cost as many jobs as he suggests, then without it we would have had more than full employment. Since that is not actually possible, his doomy outlook is overstated.
That's because free trade is not a zero sum game as Brown suggests. A trade deficit also means that our consumers were given more choice since it indicates that Mexican goods enjoyed a healthy market in the United States. By offering more choice to U.S. consumers, U.S. consumers were by extension able to buy more stuff in general and thus boosting our economy. Furthermore, this $38 billion trade deficit was part of an economy that was north of 10 trillion. Thus, the entire allusion to the trade deficit is nothing more than a trojan horse. Our government spending alone is over one trillion yearly, and yet Brown proclaims that opposing free trade is perfectly reasonable because we added $38 billion to our trade deficit. While he makes that misleading arguement, he fails to mention all of the positives that negative trade deficit brought. (our consumers were given more choice, our companies were allowed to be more efficient, and of course our companies gained access to new markets)
Second, he extols the dangers of our trade arrangement with China which according to him has no rules. This is in and of itself nothing more than a trojan horse as well. That's because later on he says this...
Instead, we have a trade agreement that runs nearly 1,000 pages and is chock full of giveaways and protections for drug companies, oil companies, and financial services companies, and incentives to outsource jobs now held by Americans.
So, on the one hand our free trade agreements have no rules, and yet they run 1000 pages. I suppose in those 1000 pages there were absolutely no rules.
The last part of his piece is yet another trojan horse. That's because the Colombian free trade agreement languished in the legislature for more than two years. In fact, it was amended multiple times to acquiesce those that were concerned with civil rights and environmental issues. Still, the House simply refused to pass it. If this was merely about making the free trade agreement better, why didn't proponents spend the last two years plus doing that. Instead, Pelosi et al have simply killed it. He can't at one end claim that he only wants improve our agreements, and yet disregard that his colleagues killed the agreement outright. If the trade agreement needs to be improved, then improve it. That isn't what happened. They killed the agreement. They didn't improve it.
Furthermore, Brown not only impugns a great ally but frankly misleads if not outright lies about it.
The Colombia Free Trade Agreement is being shopped around Congress by an overzealous White House. Let's put aside, for now, the debate about rewarding a country that has done little to stem the tide of rampant labor abuses and human rights violations – including dozens of murders.
I guess by overzealous he means a White House that proposed this agreement in 2006 and waited to 2008 to demand it get signed. Furthermore, I guess reducing kidnapping and murder by nearly 80% is not stemming the tide of rampant civil rights abuses. Brown refuses to acknowledge that the Uribe government has nearly transformed a country once at the mercy of tyrants and drug dealers, and put it on the path toward peace. He does this for nothing more than naked partisanship.