By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — As the third round of the North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations begin in Canada, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) held a town hall meeting Sept. 20 at UAW Local 600 informing the public of the process.
NAFTA went into effect in 1994 between the United States, Canada and Mexico to establish a free trade area. According to the NAFTA website, the objectives of the agreement include, eliminating barriers to trade in, and facilitate the cross-border movement of, goods and services between the territories of the countries; promoting conditions of fair competition in the free trade area; increasing substantially investment opportunities in the territories of the countries; providing adequate and effective protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights in each country’s territory; creating effective procedures for the implementation and application of the agreement, for its joint administration and for the resolution of disputes; and establish a framework for further trilateral, regional and multilateral cooperation to expand and enhance the benefits of the agreement.
According to Trade Watch, NAFTA was supposed to create 200,000 American jobs per year in its first five years and raise wages in the United States and Mexico. Today, there are now more than 910,000 specific U.S. labor jobs certified as lost to NAFTA and wages are flat in the United States and down 9 percent in Mexico.
In Michigan more than 196,000 of its manufacturing jobs have been lost since NAFTA went into effect. As for U.S. farmers and ranchers, the USDA reported that agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico have lagged while agricultural imports from those countries have surged.
Dingell said she is working to eliminate offshore incentives which have “led to a massive job loss and decrease in wages nationwide.”
She also said stronger protections against currency manipulation and the elimination of NAFTA’s offshoring incentives and Buy American ban are necessary.
Dingell along with UAW Local 600 Vice President A.J. Freer said more transparency in the NAFTA renegotiation process is needed instead of negotiations behind closed doors.
“We must hold the administration accountable for the promises President Trump made during his campaign which include creating jobs, raising wages and bringing manufacturing back to the United States,” Dingell said.
Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber called for a more level playing field for skilled Michigan employees.
“It’s time to rewrite NAFTA the right way – making it easier to export Michigan products instead of Michigan jobs,” Bieber said. “That means negotiating a new trade agreement with strong labor protections and tough penalties when countries break the rules, and when corporations don’t pay their fair share of taxes.
“We also need strong Buy American policies on the books to support job creation here at home. Leveling the playing field on trade will help working people in Michigan provide a better life for their families.”
For more information on NAFTA go to www.tradewatch.org.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])