If Canada and Mexico do not renegotiate NAFTA, said Hillary Clinton in the Cleveland debate, she would "opt out" of the trade treaty that was the legislative altarpiece of Bill Clinton's presidency. Barack agreed. NAFTA is renegotiated, or NAFTA is gone.
Barack went further. He has denounced "open trucking," the feature of NAFTA whereby Mexican trucks are to be free to roam the United States and compete with the Teamsters of Jim Hoffa's union, which just endorsed him.
The trade issue is back, big-time. For to blue-collar workers in industrial states like Ohio, NAFTA is a code word for betrayal -- a sellout of them and their families to CEOs panting to move production out of the United States to cheap-labor countries like Mexico and China.
Our workers' instincts are backed up by stats. In 2007, the U.S. trade deficit with Mexico soared 16 percent to $73 billion, a record. Mexico now ships more cars to us now than we ship to the world. And where did Mexico get an auto industry?
The U.S. trade deficit with China shot up 10 percent to $256 billion, the largest trade deficit ever between any two countries.
Charles MacMillion of MBG Services has run the numbers.
In manufactures, the United States had a trade deficit of $499 billion in 2007, a slight improvement over the $526 billion record in 2006. Yet that trade deficit in manufactured goods with the world is more than twice as large as our $224 billion bill for OPEC's oil.
Under Bush, the U.S. trade deficit has doubled. Three million manufacturing jobs have vanished. And America has begun to run a trade deficit in advanced technology goods of more than $50 billion.
Our trade deficit in advanced technology goods with China is $67 billion, eight times what it is with Japan.
"Free trade is essential to the creation of high-paying quality jobs," said Bush on Thursday. But if exports create jobs (and they do), imports displace them. And if we import half a trillion dollars more in manufactures than we export, is not Bush trade policy literally slaughtering industrial jobs?
Is there not a correlation between $4.3 trillion in trade deficits under Bush, the 3 million manufacturing jobs lost under Bush, the fall of the dollar by 50 percent against the euro under Bush and the resurgence of inflation, signaled by a quadrupling of the price of gold, under Bush?
Neither Hillary nor Obama has laid out a new trade-and-tax policy to deal with the de-industrialization of America and our deepening dependency on foreign technology, manufactures and the loans to pay for them. But at least they are listening to the country.