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Ad Watch: Trade Policy

By Terry M. Neal
Friday, October 17, 1997; Page A22

AFL-CIO ads against "fast track"

"Rush" (television), produced by Axelrod and Associates

Man: "Stop and think and reason these things through."

Woman: "Why not get it right?"

Narrator: "What is fast track? Special powers to rush through flawed trade deals like NAFTA, stripping Congress of the right to fix them. Since NAFTA, hundreds of thousands of American jobs exported. More pollution along our border. Tainted foods on our shelves."

Another man: "I'd much rather have a fair trade deal than a fast one."

Narrator: "Tell Congressman [name] to vote no on fast track so he can fight for trade deals that work for us."


"Get it Right" (radio)

Man: "Stop and think and reason these things through."

Woman: "Why not get it right?"

Second woman: "I'd rather have a fair trade deal than a fast one."

Narrator: "They call it the fast track proposal: Special powers to rush through flawed trade deals like NAFTA, stripping Congress of the right to fix them. Since the NAFTA trade deal, hundreds of thousands of American jobs have been exported, as companies shift their operations out of the U.S. to exploit cheap labor and low environmental standards.

"There's more air and water pollution along our border. And tainted, imported foods have found their way onto our shelves and into our school cafeterias. But if fast track is approved, Congress won't have the power to address these problems in trade agreements. Call Congressman [name] at [congressman's office number], and tell him to stop fast track. . . ."

Analysis: These two ads were aimed initially at 13 undecided House members and make essentially the same points. The assertion that fast track strips Congress of the right to "fix" trade deals is true in the sense that Congress cannot amend the agreements. But it must first give the president authority to negotiate a trade deal, and it has the power to reject any deal it does not like.

Most independent analyses have concluded that NAFTA has not had a significant impact in relation to the entire economy since it went into effect on Jan. 1, 1994. The direct investment by U.S. companies in Mexico increased from about $1 billion in 1993 to about $1.8 billion last year, but that is a fraction of the $800 billion invested by U.S. companies in the United States last year. Economists acknowledge that while thousands of jobs have been lost because of trade with Mexico, thousands have also been gained.

The Food and Drug Administration lacks statistics on the number of people who have become ill or died because of tainted imported foods. Officials acknowledge that inspection resources have not kept pace with the surge in imports, but the problem is not trade agreements because cuts in tariffs have been negligible for fruits, such as the berries from Mexico and Guatemala that caused illnesses here.

America Leads on Trade ads for fast track

"Yes" (television), produced by Squier Knapp Ochs.

Narrator: "Fast track trade agreements open foreign markets to U.S. goods."

On screen: Does Congressman [name] want to open foreign markets?

Narrator: "Fast track trade agreements mean more U.S. exports and more jobs."

On screen: Is Congressman [name] for creating jobs?

Narrator: "Fast track trade agreements help create full-time jobs that pay 15 percent above non-export jobs."

On screen: Is Congressman [name] for better-paying jobs?

Narrator: "Call your congressman. Tell him to vote yes for opening foreign markets and yes for U.S. jobs by voting yes for fast track."


"Important" (television)

Narrator: "Why is fast track important for our economy? Because it allows the president, in consultation with Congress, to negotiate the best trade agreements for America. With fast track, Congress votes yes or no on the entire treaty. They can't pick it apart; no special interest amendments, no inside deals, no delay or gridlock. That's why it's called fast track, because it means a faster, stronger U.S. economy. Call Congress. Tell them to vote yes for boosting exports, yes for U.S. jobs. Yes for fast track."

Analysis: America Leads on Trade is a coalition of businesses formed to lobby for fast track. Few economists would dispute its contention that trade creates jobs, at least on the most basic level. But the impact is very gradual.

Some independent studies have concluded that NAFTA has led to a small net increase in employment, perhaps a few thousand jobs – a minuscule number in an economy that has created millions of jobs in recent years. At least two studies have suggested that export jobs generally pay more. Some fast track opponents would take issue with the claim that the president consulting with Congress would negotiate the trade agreement. Under fast track legislation, the president would have to get Congress's permission to negotiate, but the details would be largely left to the president. Congress would then vote the entire deal up or down, without amendments.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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