Broad benefits, but big job losses

Experts say the trade deal is likely to bring net gains to the US economy. It will boost exports of everything from oranges to cellphones. It may help keep inflation down. But it will also cost American jobs - hundreds of thousands of them.

"For companies like Boeing, telecommunications companies, and the financial-services industry, this is really good news," says Rajib Pal, a Goldman Sachs economist in New York.

US imports from China will soar to $230 billion or more in five years, economists say, up from $81 billion in 1999. China has become America's No. 1 supplier of toys, apparel, shoes, and consumer electronics.

Meanwhile, US exports to China are likely to double - to $28 billion.

The upshot: a huge rise in an already large bilateral trade deficit that neared $69 billion last year.

While all those imports may seem bad, some economists view them in a positive light: Consumers have the choice of less expensive goods from China. This is good news for inflation and may mean the Federal Reserve can keep interest rates down.

For workers, the story may not be so bright. The textile industry alone estimates it will lose 150,000 jobs.

Over the next decade, US job losses could total 872,000, argues one labor-backed think tank, say critics, citing a recent report by the US International Trade Commission. That's partly because many US firms want to set up factories in China, both for access to its market and as a base to export from.

Many top US firms such as Hewlett-Packard and Whirlpool have already made large investments there. And they could get bigger. Eastman Kodak Co., Rockwell International Corp., General Motors Corp., Motorola, and Perdue Farms are among those reportedly depending on freer trade to justify larger investments in Chinese production facilities.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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