Capitol Hill Buzz: Dueling 50-state reports reach opposite views about expanded trade benefits

Economic Indicators Associated Press

Good news, folks. Expanded trade agreements help Americans in all 50 states. The government told us so, this week.

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No, wait. It turns out expanded trade is BAD in all 50 states. Or so says Public Citizen, a leading opponent of President Barack Obama's bid to sign a new trade deal with 11 Pacific rim nations.

Both the government and the private group issued slick, color-coded reports with interactive maps this week. Needless to say, they used different data to reach their opposite conclusions.

The first report, "United States of Trade," was issued Thursday by the Commerce Department and the U.S. trade representative. For each state, it shows the value of goods exported last year, and compares it to 10 years ago.

The report doesn't explicitly predict how each state might benefit from new trade agreements. But it shows the value of goods already being exported to countries now in trade talks with the United States.

"Access to global markets is benefiting small businesses across our nation," the report says. "With 95 percent of the world's customers living outside of U.S. borders, there is enormous potential" for further growth through exports.

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On Friday, Public Citizen announced: "We couldn't let USTR's 50-state report on the impact of trade go unanswered." So the group issued its own state-by-state report.

It shows the number of manufacturing jobs lost since 1994, the year the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect. Pro-trade groups say NAFTA played a small role in the erosion of U.S. manufacturing jobs. But anti-free-trade groups have used it as a punching bag for two decades.

The report says the pending Pacific rim trade deal — like NAFTA, it includes Canada and Mexico — "would extend the NAFTA model that has contributed to massive U.S. trade deficits."

Residents of every state will find polar-opposite arguments about trade in the two documents.

North Carolina, for instance, "has lost more than 369,000 manufacturing jobs - nearly half - since NAFTA and NAFTA expansion pacts have taken effect," the Public Citizen report says.

The government report paints a much cheerier picture. North Carolina, it says, exported $13 billion in goods to the 11 targeted Pacific rim countries last year, it said. The state's total chemical exports reached $5.7 billion in 2014, and pork exports were $739 million.

The government report includes a brief success story about trade in each state. In North Carolina, it attributes recent job growth at Charlotte-based Magellan Aviation Group to "increased sales and service to customers in both domestic and international markets."

Pro-trade lawmakers soon will introduce a bill to give Obama "fast track" authority to push proposed trade deals that Congress can endorse or reject, but not amend. If fast track is approved, the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership proposal is likely to follow.

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Online:

From USTR: https://ustr.gov/unitedstatesoftrade

From Public Citizen: http://citizen.org/page.aspx?pid=6500