New U.S. study shows some positive effects from free trade deals

Wed Jun 29, 2016 11:21pm EDT
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By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. free trade agreements since 1984 have had an overall positive effect on trade balances, reducing U.S. trade deficits or boosting surpluses with partner countries by $87.5 billion in 2015, a new government study showed on Wednesday.

The study by the U.S. International Trade Commission at the request of Congress found that the trade deals, including the controversial North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and pacts with Central American countries and South Korea, boosted net U.S. employment by 159,300 jobs in 2012 over levels that would have occurred without them.

They caused real wages to be slightly higher, by 0.3 percent, that same year. The trade deals also provided only a slight boost to economic output of less than one percent.

The agreements significantly improved the U.S. position in bilateral goods trade with FTA partners, boosting surpluses or reducing deficits by $4.4 billion per country per year on average, said the ITC, the body that passes judgment on U.S. anti-dumping and anti-subsidy trade cases.

This added up to a total favorable U.S. trade position of $87.5 billion for 2015 over estimates without the trade deals.

It noted that U.S. pork exports to Colombia, for example, had risen 300 percent since a free-trade deal took effect in 2011.

The study, mandated by last year's "fast-track" trade authority legislation that paved the way for a 12-country Pacific free trade deal, could provide some ammunition for pro-trade lawmakers to push back against a rising tide of anti-trade sentiment, particularly from the presidential campaign trail.

Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump on Tuesday vowed to force Canada and Mexico to renegotiate the NAFTA free trade deal or scrap it as part of his plan to protect and restore American jobs.   Continued...