≡ Menu

Keeping Straight the Facts About Trade

Todays edition of the Boston Globe has these two very good letters on trade:

CONTRARY TO  what Adrian Boutureira writes in “The hidden costs of free trade” (Op-ed, Nov. 5), the loss of manufacturing jobs in Massachusetts has nothing to do with the North American Free Trade Agreement. In the four years prior to the implementation of NAFTA (1990-1993), Massachusetts lost 80,000 manufacturing jobs, while in the 13 years since 1994, the loss has been 120,000.

The loss of manufacturing jobs is mainly due to technological progress. The long-term growth of manufacturing jobs in the United States came to a halt in 1969, and the decline started in 1979. While between 1993 and 2006 the number of manufacturing jobs in this country has declined by about 2.7 million, the index of industrial production has risen by 62 percent, and the value of manufacturing output in constant prices has increased by 54 percent.

NAFTA has been a bipartisan project. President George H.W. Bush signed the agreement in 1992, and Congress passed it at the urging of President Bill Clinton in 1993.


The writer is an associate professor of economics at Northeastern University.

 asserts that we have seen the “devastating effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement in Massachusetts,” citing the loss of more than 100,000 manufacturing jobs in the last decade. This assertion is highly misleading at best.

The number of manufacturing jobs has declined in virtually all industrialized countries, regardless of their membership in free-trade agreements. At the same time, the number of jobs in other sectors, notably services, has increased enough to more than compensate for manufacturing job losses, in Massachusetts and nationally.

In addition, Boutureira and others are often quick to blame trade for the increase in income inequality, but rarely give it credit for the increase in average incomes, as for example measured by gross domestic product per capita. That is what provides scope for policies alleviating inequality and helping those who are displaced, whether by trade, technology, or other factors. These are policies we need to pursue, not restricting trade.

Waterville, Maine

The writer is assistant professor of economics at Colby College.