MICKEY KANTOR, the United States trade representative, says the controversial free-trade agreement with Mexico and Canada should add 200,000 jobs to the American economy within the next two years.
Ambassador Kantor, who spoke with reporters yesterday at a Monitor breakfast, says the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) should be ready for Congress in September.
Despite widespread opposition to NAFTA from major labor unions and some environmental groups, Mr. Kantor predicts the agreement will win approval in the House and Senate, though the House could be difficult.
Right now, about one-third of the House is pro-NAFTA, one-third is anti-NAFTA, and everyone else is right in the middle, Kantor says. To win broader support, Kantor is negotiating side agreements with Mexico and Canada to ease US concerns about labor standards and environmental regulations, and to control unexpected surges of imports.
NAFTA would drop trade restrictions between the three major nations of North America over the next decade, with some barriers falling almost immediately. Ross Perot, a major opponent, warns that NAFTA will lead to a "great sucking sound" as US jobs are pulled out of the country to low-wage Mexico.
Kantor disputes that and chides Mr. Perot for having "no confidence" in American workers' ability to compete in a free market environment.
Meanwhile, Kantor reenforced the get-tough approach that the Clinton White House will apparently take toward both Japan and China on trade issues.
Kantor noted that China is closed to 220 to 230 items produced in the US, even though China runs an $18.3 billion trade surplus with the US.
On Japan, Kantor declared: "We must get that trade deficit down." Japan's $53.2 billion trade surplus with the US is costing American jobs and is no longer sustainable politically, Kantor says.