Benefits and costs of NAFTA: mixed reviews

In his Oct. 18 opinion article, David R. Francis portrays NAFTA as a risky experiment gone awry ("NAFTA: Off with the rose-colored glasses"). Nothing could be further from the truth. Since its passage in 1993, the US economy has boomed, enjoying the longest peacetime expansion in history. Unemployment is at its lowest levels in 30 years.

Trade with NAFTA partners has grown at a faster rate than the rest of the world and now stands at record levels, with Canada and Mexico as our first- and second-largest trading partners, respectively. US exports to our NAFTA partners grew by $13 billion last year and helped offset the loss of exports to the Pacific Rim.

Mr. Francis points to a trade deficit with Mexico as evidence of the agreement's failure. This is shortsighted. Many of the parts imported from Canada and Mexico contain a high percentage of components made in the US. Furthermore, increased imports do not reflect a threat to US manufacturers but rather booming demand as a result of recent economic expansion.

NAFTA presently supports an estimated 2.6 million jobs, over 600,000 more than exports to Canada and Mexico supported in 1993. These jobs also pay roughly 15 percent more than non-export jobs. Rather than decimating the US manufacturing sector, NAFTA has helped revitalize it. In the five years prior to NAFTA, US manufacturing employment declined by almost 1.3 million workers. In the five years since, US manufacturing jobs have grown by 400,000, and over 100,000 in the auto sector. The trend of declining manufacturing wages has also been reversed with a rise in real wages of more than 5 percent - contrary to Francis' assertion that NAFTA is depressing US wages.

As in the US, NAFTA has also fostered growth in higher-wage jobs in Mexico. Though the 1995 peso crisis took a toll on the Mexican economy, NAFTA and the US stabilization loan sparked a recovery in the Mexican economy and US exports to Mexico in seven months. By comparison, it took seven years following a similar crisis in 1982. Articles such as Francis' foster myths and misperceptions about NAFTA and do a great disservice to the American worker and US economy.

James Jones Washington Mexico-US Business Committee Thomas McNamara Washington Council of the Americas

David R. Francis' article on NAFTA could not have been more timely or accurate. Accepting Mexico into NAFTA served no purpose except to line the pockets of a few US mega-corporations, such as General Motors, that have traditionally sought government protection against foreign competitors instead of trying to compete on the merits of their products. The relentless influx of illegal aliens into the US further indicates that NAFTA is not making conditions there better.

It seems to me that NAFTA serves too few and harms too many.

Tom Turner Duluth, Ga.

Never too many education stories

Kudos to the Monitor. I am a relatively new regular reader of your Electronic Edition and appreciate it very much. First of all, thank you for making it available online for free.

I also appreciate the recent series on education. As important as this subject is to the overall health and well-being of all future generations of Americans, I encourage you to make education a regular rather than weekly feature - and let the rest of America know that you have!

T.J. O'Malley Danville Calif.

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