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Price Tag for Free Trade Is Too High for the U.S.

September 16, 2004

Re "When It Comes to Free Trade, Bush Outshines His Predecessors," Commentary, Sept. 12: Claude Barfield presupposes that free trade is working for the U.S. economy. It isn't. With a record $48.3-billion trade deficit in April, free trade is increasingly facilitating the export of American jobs and production capacity to our trading partners.

President Bush's trade policy is a major reason why we have lost more than 1 million jobs since he took office. Those jobs are now in India and China. While Bush pushes free trade that increasingly benefits multinational business and foreign countries, John Kerry proposes "fair trade" agreements that better protect American workers and "Made in America" business.

Randy T. Smith

Coto de Casa


Barfield of the American Enterprise Institute makes free trade sound really good. On the contrary, our trade deficit is too large, around 5% per year, while our annual growth averages only 3% per year. Any business, family or charitable foundation in that situation will eventually go broke, and so will the U.S. If we bring our trade deficit down to below our growth rate, we can keep importing and thus help poorer countries forever. Otherwise, our economy and their prosperity will crash, and the American corporations, which now benefit from importing cheaply produced goods and which hope to sell to a great worldwide middle class, will see their dreams shattered.

We either have to reform the World Trade Organization and the North American Free Trade Agreement and other such trade agreements to allow us to control our trade deficit, or else withdraw from them and negotiate treaties that we can live with.

Bush is doing us no favor by pursuing agreements that will produce larger trade deficits in the short run and economic ruin in the long run. His theory that everyone benefits from free trade by doing what they do best doesn't stand up to reality. There's no way that wages and benefits of American employees can be reduced enough to make us competitive with countries that pay workers only a few dollars a day, even if we're twice as efficient as they are.

August R. Gerecke Jr.


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