How we make the call
Truth Squad assigns five ratings to the political statements we review, in descending levels of accuracy:
|Who||Gretchen Driskell for Congress|
|What||“Zero,” 30-second video|
|The call||No foul|
U.S. trade deals have become a populist, hot-button campaign issue this year, from the presidential race on down to contests that include Michigan's 7th congressional district.
GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump says deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement are a “disaster” for American workers, while Democrat Hillary Clinton backpedaled on her former support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed trade deal with 12 Pacific Rim nations. She now opposes the proposed agreement she once called the “gold standard” for trade deals.
In this 30-second TV ad, Democratic State Rep. Gretchen Driskell attacks four-term GOP incumbent Tim Walberg for his support of a number of trade deals, asserting they have harmed Michigan workers. The seventh district is in south-central Michigan and includes Hillsdale, Lenawee, Branch, Jackson, Eaton, Monroe and Washtenaw counties.
“When Michigan workers needed Tim Walberg, he did nothing, zip. Because Walberg didn't oppose a single trade deal in Congress. Zero. It's true. Trade Deal Tim voted yes on every single trade deal. Gretchen Driskell will have one priority: protecting and growing jobs right here in Michigan. Not Korea or Colombia - Michigan. 'I'm Gretchen Driskell and I approved this message, but never those bad deals that hurt Michigan families and sell out Michigan workers.'”
Statements under review
“Walberg didn't oppose a single trade deal in Congress.”
The ad cites Walberg's vote in 2007, approving a free-trade deal with Peru and in 2011, approving similar deals with Colombia and with South Korea. Walberg joined a majority of Republicans in each case in approving the trade deals.
“Gretchen Driskell will have one priority, protecting and growing jobs right here in Michigan, not Korea or Colombia - Michigan. 'I'm Gretchen Driskell and I approved this message but never those bad deals that hurt Michigan families and sell out Michigan workers.'”
In spite of growing passions over free trade this election, the evidence is not clear-cut that free trade has been harmful to Michigan. Critics of these deals say they have cost Michigan thousands of jobs. But some economic analysts point to automation, greater manufacturing efficiency and competition from foreign automakers as the prime contributors to the loss of manufacturing jobs, while noting gains in employment from increased exports.
While the ad does not mention it, the issue has been largely framed by debate over NAFTA, which took effect in 1994.
Michigan's manufacturing employment today stands at about 600,000, a drop of 35 percent since the year before NAFTA took effect. But the decline was well underway before NAFTA, falling by 22 percent from 1.2 million in 1978 to about 925,000 in 1993, according to analysis of Bureau of Economic Analysis data by the W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. During that time, manufacturing fell as a share of overall employment in Michigan from 28 percent in 1978 to 19 percent in 1993 – a drop of 32 percent. Manufacturing employment actually climbed the first several years after NAFTA took effect, reaching 1 million in 2000. It plunged to below 500,000 in 2009 in the depths of the Great Recession.
There is disagreement among experts over whether NAFTA or other trade deals have fed that decline.
A 2014 analysis and survey of academic literature by the U.S. International Trade Commission on the trade deal concluded: “The general consensus in the literature is that NAFTA has not had significant effects on aggregate labor market outcomes in the United States.” In 2015, the Congressional Research Service concluded: “In reality, NAFTA did not cause the huge job losses feared by the critics or the large economic gains predicted by supporters. The net overall effect of NAFTA on the U.S. economy appears to have been relatively modest...”
It's also worth noting that Michigan ranks among the nation's leaders in employment supported by exports, with 270,000 jobs tied to exports in 2015. That ranked sixth. Michigan ranked third in the number of added jobs tied to exports from 2009 to 2015, with 63,000 added jobs.
On the other hand, the Economic Policy Institute – a liberal Washington D.C.-based think tank – concluded in 2013 that NAFTA had cost nearly 700,000 U.S. jobs, most in manufacturing, and has lead to stagnant wages. EPI also concluded that the 2011 Korea free trade deal cost the United States nearly 100,000 jobs while contributing to a widening trade deficit.
|The call||No foul|
The ad accurately states Walberg's votes on three trade deals – he did in fact vote for trade agreements with Peru, Colombia and Korea. Although the ad does not mention it, in 2011 Walberg also voted to approve a trade deal with Panama and in 2015 to give President Barack Obama fast-track authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, with 12 Pacific Rim countries. It has yet to be ratified. Walberg now says he opposes TPP. Nonetheless, it is true that Walberg has supported every international free trade deal before Congress since he's been in office. The ad's other assertion ‒ that these trade deals have hurt Michigan workers ‒ is a matter of debate, and within the realm of supportable opinion.