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Trump Misstates NAFTA Impact on U.S. Job Losses in UN Speech: Fact Check

September 24, 2019, 7:13 PM UTC

President Donald Trump is attributing too many job losses to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Addressing the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, Trump called for significant changes in international trade and criticized NAFTA as unduly harming American factory workers, saying it led to four million lost jobs. The statement by him and the White House in a separate news release misrepresented reality.

TRUMP: “In America, the result was 4.2 million lost manufacturing jobs … the United States is now taking that decisive action to end this grave economic injustice.”

WHITE HOUSE: “The president is getting rid of the disastrous North American Free Trade Agreement and replacing it with a better deal, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Our country has lost 4 million manufacturing jobs since NAFTA went into effect.”

THE FACTS: The loss of factory jobs is not all due to NAFTA.

Trump is correct that the United States has lost nearly 4 million factory jobs since that pact took effect in January 1994. But most economists attribute the losses to other factors — the recessions of 2001 and 2007-2009, automation that lets machines replace workers and low-cost competition from China.

Trump’s proposed NAFTA replacement — the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement — is hardly expected to create a jobs boom. The independent International Trade Commission estimates that the new deal would create 176,000 jobs over six years, a rounding error in a country with 152 million nonfarm jobs.

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