U.S. Trade Deals Have Added Half a Million Jobs, Agency Says


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U.S. free-trade agreements reached over the past 3 1/2 decades have had a “small but positive” effect on the world’s biggest economy, a report by a bipartisan federal agency analyzing trade issues showed.

Trade pacts concluded since 1984 raised gross domestic product by $88.8 billion, or 0.5%, and added 485,000 full-time equivalent jobs, the International Trade Commission said in a 390-page report released Tuesday. Job gains weren’t evenly distributed, with the biggest improvements seen for college-educated males, it said.

While free-trade agreements “help level the playing field when other markets are less open than those of the U.S.,” critics say the deals “often serve the interests of multinational corporations at the expense of American workers -- for example, by promoting trade liberalization and investor protections while failing to adequately protect worker rights and the environment,” the commission said.

The Biden administration has promised its trade policy will focus on workers and the middle class as the nation recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The study examined the economic effects only of trade agreements for which Congress enacted implementing bills, including those under so-called Fast-Track Authority before 2002 and those made under Trade Promotion Authority since that year.

It therefore includes the recent U.S.-Canada-Mexico Agreement, but excludes the partial accord reached with China in 2020, the 2019 pact with Japan and the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which provides about three dozen sub-Saharan African countries duty-free access to the U.S. for about 6,500 products.

Trade Promotion Authority, the fast-track negotiating ability delegated to the U.S. president by Congress, is set to expire on Thursday. That power, which was granted under the Trade Act of 1974, has typically been renewed when leaders wanted to pursue specific pacts.

Tuesday’s report was due to Congress by mid-2021, according to a law passed in 2015.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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