Current U.S. trade agreements handicap America

Burl C. Adkins

Burl C. Adkins


On Jan. 1, 1994 the North American Free Trade Agreement passed, and since then additional trade policies followed modeled after NAFTA. The results have left the U.S. economy and citizens disadvantaged in their ability to compete in world markets. The U.S. trade deficit and national debt have skyrocketed and household income levels have declined sharply, in large part due to these flawed agreements.

Yet, despite these flawed policies the first to get blamed for the loss of jobs in America are the manufacturers like GM, Ford, Chrysler, steel companies, etc. They are accused of allowing workers to be less productive and uncompetitive compared to their counterparts from around the world. Well, you can’t have it both ways. Statistics tell us the U.S. worker is more productive than any other worker around the world and our industrial companies themselves the most efficient in business today. Either we are the best and most productive or we are not. I believe we are the best. It is the poorly drafted U.S. trade agreements that get in our way.

The very nature of an American is to be competitive. U.S. manufacturers and the ability of their employees to meet and beat their competitors is at the core of America’s DNA.

The very well respected PEW Research Center notes that median net worth has stagnated since 1994 and the average American working family has far less “real income” than in 1994. It is time to recognize flawed trade agreements are the culprit and lower household income is a leading indicator of the result of poorly negotiated trade agreements.

“NAFTA will create jobs, good paying jobs for America,” NAFTA proponent then-President Bill Clinton said. “If I didn’t believe that I would not be supporting it.”

More than 20 years later, tens of millions of American families have lost jobs, self-respect, income, pensions, their homes and their healthcare benefits. Equally important, social unrest, divisions among citizens and increasing crime devastate our cities. The facts demonstrate minority citizens have taken the brunt of the financial pain.

These are the results of the “free trade” philosophy likened to following a false religious belief despite the dire consequences of subscribing to its fundamental falsehood. Many would tell you, “but the economy is improving.” Once again, we cannot have it both ways; in pure numerical terms, more people are out of work, stopped looking for work, on disability payments or working two jobs than at any time in the past 50 years.

As mentioned earlier, a recent Pew Research Survey found that the vast majority of middle-class Americans say their financial well-being has been strangled over the past 10 years; sagging home values and dreary job prospects are far too common. Eighty-five percent of middle class wage earners say its tougher now than a decade ago to maintain living standards.

The official unemployment rate is more than 5 percent, but if you look beneath those numbers, its closer to 10 percent as millions of Americans have thrown in the towel, given up hope and stopped looking for work.

It’s time we get to the core of U.S. tax and trade policies that have driven the American dream from the grasps of most working Americans. We have the ability to restore that promise, if we are willing to take a harsh look at U.S. trade and tax policies driving our country further down the road of financial instability.

The passage of these destructive and unconstitutional trade and tax policies approved by Congress and signed by U.S. presidents, have sent millions of jobs out of the country, closed over 66,000 U.S. factories and impoverished millions. Furthermore, these “free trade” agreements are responsible for trillions of dollars in lost tax revenues. It is a simple formula, lower household income means fewer tax dollars to support government and our schools.

The latest proposed “free trade” agreement is the Trans-Pacific Partnership. If passed it will deal another blow to our domestic auto industry and American manufacturing. This agreement will eliminate America’s 2.5 percent tariff on all manufactured goods and the 25 percent tariff tax on imported trucks.

If we do nothing, we run the inevitable result of destroying our nation by enslaving the American people with debt, from which they will never recover. In short, the playing field is riddled with trade polices that put America at a major trading disadvantage.

Our foreign competitors have closed their markets to U.S. imports or taxed them to a level of not being competitive. The American products allowed into their countries are subject to burdensome tariff taxes and duties. In brief, they make our products more expensive when sold internationally and theirs cheaper when sold in the United States.

According to the Huffington Post, America has lost 1 million American jobs to Mexico since NAFTA was signed into law in 1994.

The Economic Policy Institute states that between 2012 and 2014, 60,000 American jobs were lost, instead of the 70,000 American jobs expected to be created by the South Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. Since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, over 2 million U.S. jobs disappeared.

Go to the Burl’s Common Sense LLC Movement website,, to find out how you can get involved in our movement to rekindle America’s promise.

(Burl C. Adkins of Dearborn-based, Global Technology Associates, a company that has provided professional staffing solutions to the automotive industry for nearly 30 years.)