Supporters say free trade deals can create jobs

Employee Development Department employee Robert Mortensen, left, helps a job seeker call about a job listing at the Marin Employment Connection in San Rafael, Calif.

BOB MOON: That jobs report is several hours away but it's definitely the major focus. Economists think perhaps 80 or 90,000 jobs were added in July. That would be more than in May and June, but still not nearly enough to push the unemployment rate down much. It's now over 9 percent.

So where are policymakers in Washington focusing their job-boosting hopes? Foreign trade. Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman reports.

MITCHELL HARTMAN: President Obama started talking 'jobs' right after the debt-ceiling deal this week. He wants Congress to pass pending free-trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. Boost exports, he says, and U.S. companies will hire more workers to produce those goods.

Jeanne Shaheen, Democratic Senator from New Hampshire, would like Congress to do even more to create jobs.

JEANNE SHAHEEN: Get an infrastructure bank for roads and bridges, support job training.

But with budget cuts coming, more government spending is probably a pipe dream. So Shaheen backs trade deals, too.

SHAHEEN: This is an opportunity that doesn't cost a lot of money.

Spend a bit to help businesses that want to export more, and you're done. Will it create jobs? I asked Jeff Schott at the Peterson Institute.

JEFF SCHOTT: In terms of the overall U.S. economy, it's not that big a deal. But when you have such a large amount of unemployment, every little bit helps."

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says 380,000 jobs are tied to the free-trade deals. That's just a fraction of the 8 million lost in the recession. I'm Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.


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