The ‘giant sucking sound’ of NAFTA: Ross Perot was ridiculed as alarmist in 1992 but his warning turned out to be prescient

Source: Harley Shaiken, The Conversation, July 12, 2019

…. As it turns out, Perot, who died on July 9, had a point. His projections were often fanciful, but his warning turned out to be prescient. ….

…. “You implement that NAFTA, the Mexican trade agreement, where they pay people a dollar an hour, have no health care, no retirement, no pollution controls,” Perot said during the second presidential debate in October 1992, “and you’re going to hear a giant sucking sound of jobs being pulled out of this country.”

The response to that remark was fierce and immediate. Economists argued he was dead wrong as they sang the praises of free trade. Perot’s warning, however, resonated with workers, unions, environmentalists and people in manufacturing towns across the country, helping him earn 20 million votes or about 19% of the total. ….

…..Scholars and policymakers often disagree about the impact that NAFTA has had on economic growth and job generation in the U.S. That impact, they say, is not always easy to disentangle from other economic, social and political factors that have influenced U.S. growth.

It is true that leaders of all three countries did tear down trade barriers and insert effective protections for corporations and investment. But critics like Perot were right – and Clinton was wrong – about the warning on jobs.

The Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, concluded that the U.S. lost about 850,000 jobs from 1993 to 2013 as a result of NAFTA and that number has undoubtedly risen. And the “social progress as well as economic growth” in relation to the agreement never seemed to appear. Despite strong productivity growth in U.S. and Mexican manufacturing, real wages sank by 17% in Mexico from 1994 to 2011 and slid in the U.S. as well. ….