Gov. Ted Strickland's re-election campaign hasn't wavered from the message that his Republican opponent, John Kasich, cost Ohio jobs when he was a congressman by supporting the North American Free Trade Agreement and overseas trade deals, especially with China.
A Strickland TV ad, "Truth," sticks to the theme with claims that have been posted on the campaign's website:
"Kasich’s trade deals cost Ohio thousands of jobs - 49,000 jobs to Mexico, 91,000 to China."
The ad says voting for NAFTA, which took effect in 1994 and eliminated most trade barriers between Canada, Mexico and the United States, cost the state 49,000 jobs to Mexico. It says 91,000 Ohio jobs were lost to China because of Kasich’s vote in 2000 to normalize trade relations with China.
We wondered if the effect of the trade deals on jobs was so clear-cut - and if the numbers can be determined so specifically.
Calculating job losses and gains is not a simple matter of counting heads.
The ad's estimate of job losses tied to NAFTA comes from a 2006 study by the Economic Policy Institute, a pro-union think tank that has long been critical of NAFTA. The study did not, however, claim to count actual job losses. Extrapolating from employment, census and trade data, it estimated how many jobs might have been supported by production that the study says was "displaced" by growing U.S. trade deficits with Canada and Mexico.
There are other complications.
The nonpartisan General Accounting Office said that job losses were overestimated, because some NAFTA imports displaced imports from other countries instead of production in the U.S.
Both the Congressional Budget Office and the Congressional Research Service concluded that factors other than NAFTA caused the widening trade deficit with Mexico. And the Congressional Research Service, evaluating studies by the Congressional Budget Office, the World Bank, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the U.S. International Trade Commission, found that none attributed changes in employment levels to NAFTA.
The estimate of jobs lost to China carries virtually identical problems. The figure also comes from EPI, through a study published this year. It also is based on "displaced production" resulting from trade imbalance, and not on a tally of actual job losses.
Further clouding the estimate is the effect that other economic policies and forces - including product dumping, price controls and currency manipulation - have on the trade imbalance. The effect of normalized trade relations cannot be isolated.
Kasich did vote for NAFTA in the House of Representatives in 1993 and for normalizing trade relations with China in 2000. Labeling them as "Kasich’s trade deals," as does the ad, is a stretch, though.
The Clinton administration supported NAFTA, and 102 Democrats joined Republicans voting for the agreement, which the House approved 234 to 200. Clinton also fought for the Chinese trade bill, which the House passed with 164 Republican and 73 Democratic votes.
Strickland, who was also in Congress, voted against both measures.
So in the end, here’s what we’re left with:
The ad makes claims about jobs lost, but relies on studies that didn’t actually count jobs that were lost.
The estimates in those studies of what might have been displaced are affected by factors beyond NAFTA and trade with China, making it virtually impossible to measure the specific impact of either agreement on Ohio.
- The ad labels NAFTA and the Chinese trade bill as "Kasich’s deals," although he was just one of many members of Congress to vote for them, and both received support from Democrats and Republicans.
We rate Strickland's claim as False.