The National Association of Manufacturing believes that the decline in manufacturing may be ending; however, the United States has experienced a growing trade deficit for the past 30 years. And since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took effect in 1994, 3 million jobs have been wiped out of the United States economy.
Some finishers believe our trade policies are not helping the finishing industry now, nor will they help in the future. One finisher laid off 50% of his workforce last year, and his income was down 37%. The company lost three large accounts to overseas manufacturing, where the labor is cheap, the environmental regulations are there, but they aren't enforced, and the import tax to the United States is virtually nothing.
According to Robert E. Scott an international economist with the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, DC, "Existing trade agreements should be repaired and rebuilt before moving ahead with another round of broad new trade deals."
The government needs to help United States manufacturing compete in the global market. Some of Mr. Scott's facts include: Gross U.S. exports rose 61.5% between 1994 and 2000, however, imports rose by 80.5%; job losses associated with the trade deficit increased six times more rapidly between 1994 and 2000; every state and DC suffered significant job losses due to growing trade deficits; and the manufacturing sector, where the trade deficit rose 158.5% between 1994 and 2000, had 65% of the surge in job losses during that time.
In the job shop finishing sector alone, job losses totaled 107,100. In all, 1.9 million jobs were lost in manufacturing.
If NAFTA had achieved balanced trade (as it was supposed to), would 25 steel companies now be out of business? The International Trade Commission has recommended that the federal government impose 20-40% tariffs on steel imports; however, President Bush has not made a decision as of this writing.
Is the finishing industry headed the way of the steel industry? I hope not. It seems we not only have to challenge EPA about all the environmental regulations, now we may need to fight the entire government for our very survival. We better start now.