Ohio workers would pay a heavy price for pulling out of Nafta. Canada and Mexico are the top two markets for exports from Ohio, accounting for more than half of the state's exports in 2006. According to the Ohio Department of Development, 283,500 workers in the state earn their living in the export sector, with machinery, car parts, aircraft engines and optical/medical equipment among the leading exports. A trade showdown would put those good-paying jobs at risk.
Since Nafta took effect on Jan. 1, 1994, the U.S. economy has added a net 26 million new jobs. The average real hourly compensation (wages and benefits) of workers has climbed 23%. Real median household net worth has increased by a third. Of course, Nafta was not the primary driver of all that good news. But it is a useful counterpoint to the sense that large numbers of Americans have been "devastated" by Nafta and other trade agreements.
In recent years, U.S. manufacturers have enjoyed record output, revenue, exports and profits. Since Nafta, U.S. manufacturing investment in Mexico has averaged a modest $2 billion a year -- a tiny fraction of the $150 billion or more those same companies invest annually in domestic manufacturing capacity. American factories actually added a net half-million new manufacturing jobs in the five years after Nafta.
The loss of manufacturing jobs in Ohio and elsewhere since 2000 is the result of increased automation and our own domestic slowdown. U.S. factories are producing more and better stuff with fewer workers because their workers have become so much more productive.
-Ohio Needs More Foreign Trade
The Politics of Trade in Ohio
Trade bashing today, but what tomorrow?
Democrats' cheap shots at Nafta
On balance, Nafta was a good agreement - though far from perfect, and oversold in a way that exposed it to the current backlash. It has expanded trade and improved efficiency across the region. But too many advocates of Nafta said that it would create jobs. This was as false as the new argument that says it has destroyed them. Trade policy has no effect on net employment: you can as easily have full employment, or chronic unemployment, under autarky as under free trade. The purpose of liberal trade is not to "create jobs" - the term is a badge of economic illiteracy - but to change the pattern of work and raise living standards overall. As with new technology, there are winners and losers. The right policy is not to turn back integration, any more than it would be to ban the fork-lift truck. It is to ensure that the overall gains are widely shared and the victims get help.
Paul Krugman: Trade and Wages, Reconsidered
Economists are tired of trade bashing
Hillary Clinton and NAFTA