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Labor Groups Want Workers Prioritized in NAFTA Talks

NAFTA resulted in the loss of an estimated 680,000 manufacturing jobs in the United States. (Billie Greenwood/Flickr)
NAFTA resulted in the loss of an estimated 680,000 manufacturing jobs in the United States.
(Billie Greenwood/Flickr)
August 14, 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Some labor groups in Ohio and around the country are asking leaders to prioritize workers as talks begin on revising the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.

Trade officials from the U.S., Canada and Mexico will sit down Wednesday to renegotiate the 23-year-old trade deal – the success of which is hotly disputed.

Supporters argue NAFTA quadrupled trade among the three countries, boosted American agriculture exports and lowered import prices.

But Deb Kline, director of Cleveland Jobs with Justice, says Ohio manufacturing jobs were outsourced to Mexico and industry took a hit.

"Go down to the Mahoning Valley, Youngstown and Warren and you will see the ghosts of what used to be the steel industry,” she states. “We've lost many of our auto plants and then GE. Many of the plants shut down in this area."

NAFTA resulted in the loss of an estimated 680,000 manufacturing jobs in the U.S., but supporters argue the jobs have been more than made up for as NAFTA opened up foreign trade and investment for U.S. companies.

Kline says the trade deal also lowered wages and increased exploitation of Mexican and other immigrant workers.

"Workers need to be protected,” she stresses. “There need to be penalties for companies that move overseas just so that they can take advantage of other workers in other countries. It has to be about the workers and not about the bosses and the corporations."

After initially calling it "the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere," President Donald Trump is now calling for NAFTA to be modestly revised.

The White House says if negotiations do not give American workers a fair deal, then the president will give notice of the United States' intent to withdraw from the trade deal.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH