Does “Free Trade” Create Good Jobs? A Rebuttal to the Clinton Administration’s Claims GCP-97-2

David C. Ranney, Robert R. Naiman
David C. Ranney Associate Professor in the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Robert R. Naiman Ph.D. student in the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs at UIC.

U.S. government officials, business leaders and many economists tout “free trade” agreements as U.S. employment and wage boosters. They claim that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) will generate U.S. export growth, which will automatically translate into more and better U.S. jobs. And yet these rosy jobs claims seem to have little connection to the reality of the U.S. economy, in which nearly every week an export powerhouse like AT&T, Allied Signal or Kimberly Clark announces another mass layoff. This paper examines why the theory-based jobs claims related to deregulatory, export-promoting policies seem so out of touch with what many Americans are seeing in their workplaces and their communities. Using corporate case studies and statistical data, the paper concludes that these job claims are unsubstantiated. Not only is deregulated, export-led development inadequate as an employment policy, this prevailing model also undermines the capacity of national and local governments to create and sustain good jobs.


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