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Americans skeptical about free trade

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Lisa Napoli: Don’t fear it — embrace it. That’s the message President Bush is expected to deliver today in a speech he’ll give in Miami. He’s reportedly going to urge Congress to support trade deals with Panama, Colombia and South Korea. Marketplace’s Steve Henn says some enthusiasm for free trade is on the wane.


Steve Henn: If you ask Grant Aldonas why Americans are skeptical of free-trade deals these days, he can offer a pretty compelling case:

Grant Aldonas: You’ve seen downward pressure on wages across like 97 percent of Americans, and people are feeling in their pocketbook and blaming it on globalization.

This frank assessment is surprising, considering Aldonas was a trade official in the early days of the Bush Administration. He’s still a free trader, but understands why Americans fell anxious about free-trade agreements.

Aldonas: There’s a greater skepticism about our engagement in the global economy generally, and about free trade specifically.

Aldonas, who’s now at a Washington think tank, says his former colleagues in the administration realize they’re going to have to address these worries if they hope to get any of the pending Latin American free-trade deals passed.

But Aldonas is optimistic. He believes with the right worker benefits in place, important pro-trade Democrats will move at least one deal through Congress soon.

In Washington, I’m Steve Henn for Marketplace.

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