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In the Torrent of Numbers and Facts, Which Ones are Right? With AM-NAFTA Rdp

November 10, 1993

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Vice President Albert Gore and Ross Perot used loads of statistics to bolster their arguments over NAFTA, but both men sidestepped the numbers that tend to undermine their points.

Gore, for example, said that 22 of 23 economic studies showed that the North American Free Trade Agreement would create jobs, a slightly enlarged claim from the administration’s previous score of 19 of 20 studies that showed the country would gain more jobs than it lost under the trade agreement.

However, the congressional Joint Economic Committee said in a report two weeks ago that the administration had chosen to ignore several reputable studies that found more jobs would be lost than gained. And that when all major studies were reviewed, the best that could be determined was that NAFTA would have a minimal impact at best on the U.S. economy.

The JEC said the effect would probably range from a net gain of 200,000 jobs over five years to a net loss of 200,000 jobs. That’s a relatively small figure compared to the 4.9 million jobs that analysts believe the U.S. economy will create over the next five years.

Perot claimed that Mexican living standards and wages have been falling, something he blamed in part on the maquiladora program that allows American companies to set up factories in Mexico to manufacture products for sale back into the United States.

However, government statistics show that Mexican manufacturing wages have risen in the past four years although they are still well below the equivalent U.S. wages. For 1992, the average hourly Mexican manufacturing wage was $2.35 up from $1.01 in 1987. However, the 1992 figure compared to $16.17 in the United States.

Perot said 33 lobbyists were working for Mexico to promote the agreement, information contained in a May study by the Center for Public Integrity, which found that many former U.S. government officials were lobbying on Mexico’s behalf.

In fact, both sides have fielded legions of lobbyists. The primary domestic pro-NAFTA group, USA-NAFTA, has 4,000 member companies. The AFL-CIO has vowed to spend up to $4 million to defeat the agreement and many environmental groups are actively opposing the agreement.

Perot, accusing the administration of hiding the true costs of NAFTA to American taxpayers, said it would cost $20 billion to $40 billion to clean up pollution problems in Mexico. However, that estimate is far higher than either private or government estimates.

The Clinton administration has estimated that $3.8 billion would be needed over the next five to 10 years while the Sierra Club has put the figure at $12.1 billion.

Perot has frequently said that the agreement would put 5.9 million American jobs at risk - a figure widely disputed by almost every expert. But the Texas billionaire did not mention that figure Tuesday night.

He did repeat his famous phrase of the ″giant sucking sound″ of lost jobs. He also accused the administration of overstating the size of American exports to Mexico, complaining that the goods were not going to Mexican consumers but in many respects were products being shipped to Mexico for assembly and then shipment back to the United States.

While Perot did not give a figure, other NAFTA opponents have charged that half of U.S. exports eventually wind up being sent back to the United States. The administration has rejected that estimate as too high and said it was closer to 22 percent, meaning that the bulk of American exports were used in the Mexico.

Perot said that ″36 families own over half″ of Mexico and ″85 million people work for them in poverty.″

In fact, the entire population of Mexico is about 85 million people and recent studies indicate about 14 million of those people live in poverty.

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