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Q: How much of the free trade debate is a PR match as opposed to the actual numbers?
A: In my judgment, there is no merit in the complaint that we’re losing jobs or that we’re losing security to foreign countries or foreign employees. The trouble is the gains are not uniform and equal across the economy and across the geography of the United States. So if you have a pocket of workers who get displaced and you lose 100 or 200 jobs in a community, that’s going to sear your brain.
Q: Sometimes the business cultures of the foreign countries where American companies want to have free trade don’t have codes of ethics or consistent regulations. How do we get around that?
A: What we always do is write into the [trade] agreements the standards of corruption in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and now the Europeans are getting acts that are tougher than ours. That’s beginning to stabilize around the world. It doesn’t mean that the problems are over. They are never going to be over. But it is getting much better. And people are less afraid of globalization now than they were 10 years ago.
Q: Do you think NAFTA contributed to that?
A: I think NAFTA has been a powerhouse. It was the gold standard of trade treaties and it showed people you could have very rich nations and rather poor nations cooperate and both be successful.
Jim Spencer • 202-383-6123