Manufacturers push back against anti-trade rhetoric by presidential candidates

Manufacturers push back against anti-trade rhetoric by presidential candidates
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A leading manufacturing group is launching a campaign to combat the onslaught of anti-trade rhetoric in the Republican and Democratic presidential races.

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) is using social media to dispel what it says are a slew of myths — from claims about China to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) — being perpetuated by presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result Trump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn Seven years after Sandy Hook, the politics of guns has changed MORE and Democratic candidates Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMore than 200,000 Wisconsin voters will be removed from the rolls Trump is threatening to boycott the debates — here's how to make sure he shows up Trey Gowdy returns to Fox News as contributor MORE and Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result Buttigieg releases list of campaign bundlers Reject National Defense Authorization Act, save Yemen instead MORE.

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“Trade continues to be a key topic in the campaigns of both major parties,” wrote Linda Dempsey, NAM’s vice president of international economic affairs, in a blog post.

“Unfortunately, the most oft-repeated claims are flat out wrong and portend a dangerous path of retreat from the strong trade approach that has long been a powerful positive force for American workers, consumers and families,” she wrote.

Dempsey hit on four points in her post to address areas where most of the trade debate has focused.

She argues candidates should be more concerned about the hundreds of trade deals where the United States isn't a participant instead of fighting against agreements like the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which NAM is supporting.

"U.S. negotiated trade agreement are huge market-boosters for U.S. manufacturing because they promote fair trade by leveling the playing field," she wrote. 

She also said the criticism of NAFTA, a 20-year-old agreement with Mexico and Canada, “is an enduring but deeply flawed myth.”

“The United States implemented NAFTA in 1994 and then experienced four years of economic growth and the growth of more than 800,000 manufacturing jobs,” she wrote.

On Tuesday night, Trump tweeted: “How can Crooked Hillary put her husband in charge of the economy when he was responsible for NAFTA, the worst economic deal in U.S. history?”

Trump and Sanders have bashed NAFTA as a reason for the economic slowdown in the late 1990s, as well as millions in job losses.

But Dempsey counters that argument. 

"The recession in the late 1990s had a negative effect on the U.S. economy and jobs, but if anything, NAFTA helped the United States endure that downturn more successfully and has been critical to sustaining and growing the U.S. manufacturing sector that then faced even stronger challenges from Asian emerging economies," she said. 

China's trading relationship with the United States has been another focal point for Trump and Sanders on the campaign trail. 

Trump has suggested upward of 45 percent tariffs on Chinese imports, which economists argue would send the U.S. economy into a tailspin.

“It is easy for candidates to go after China as a major villain in the trade stories they like to tell,” Dempsey said.

While she acknowledged that more steps need to be taken to improve the U.S.-China partnership, there are complexities that eclipse short-sighted campaign promises.

“There’s a long way to go in creating a fairer and more reciprocal U.S.-China commercial relationship, but it’s a lot more complicated than the campaign promise of putting on new border taxes on Chinese imports, which we all know would be contrary to U.S. international commitments and would likely result in even stronger retaliation against U.S. exports to China,” she said.

Plus, China is not a part of the TPP.

Dempsey kept the same track on trade deficits, arguing that the long-standing shortfall could be narrowed by trade agreements.

“When we buy more imports than sell exports, that’s considered a trade deficit, which is used by candidates as a negative report card on U.S. trade,” Dempsey said.

"However, our economy is much more complicated than simple subtraction," she added.

President Obama is using World Trade Week to call on Congress to pass the TPP and urge trade officials here and in the European Union to complete what would be a massive trade agreement between the world's largest trading partners.

"Our global economy's growth is fueled by trade," the president said last week in a statement. 

"While understandable skepticism exists about trade, particularly in places that have been hit hard by trade deals of the past, we cannot ignore the realities of the new economy."