Overall, the evidence suggests that Michigan's economy has reaped tremendous benefits as a result of NAFTA trade liberalization. It is clear that Michigan's exports to Mexico and Canada have grown faster after NAFTA than they did before the pact was signed. This can be seen in both MISER and U. S. Department of Commerce data. For various reasons, the two sets of data differ for Michigan. While the Department of Commerce data do not go back to 1988, they show that Michigan exports to the NAFTA nations since 1993 have exceeded those to the non-NAFTA nations by 62 percent to 42 percent.
Has NAFTA caused Michigan workers harm? We believe that many of the highly publicized "job losses" trumpeted by newspaper headlines are actually attempts to blame NAFTA for general business failures that would have occurred anyway. Some companies have been legitimately hurt by the trade accord, however; the data showing impressive increases in exports suggests that many more companies are benefiting from NAFTA than are not.
Far from decimating the U. S. auto industry, as some suggested, NAFTA has been a great boon to auto makers. Ford called NAFTA an "unequivocal success." General Motors says the trade accord has "definitely lived up to its promise." Ford increased its presence in Mexico from one percent of the market to over 11 percent since the inception of NAFTA, while GM has increased its exports from almost no vehicles prior to NAFTA to over 60,000 units since the agreement went into effect. DaimlerChrysler exports to Canada and Mexico increased from 49 percent of its total exports to 66 percent since NAFTA became law.
Today, the economies of both the United States and Michigan are in such tremendous shape that many who predicted certain economic doom as a result of NAFTA have fallen silent on the subject. However, it is instructive to recall their prophecies of yesterday in order to understand how easy it is to be caught up in the fear that the free interplay of economic forces will wreak havoc upon American businesses and workers. One measure of this fear is the title of billionaire and presidential aspirant Ross Perot's best-selling 1993 book, timed to have an impact on the NAFTA debate: Save Your Job, Save Your Country: Why NAFTA Must Be StoppedNow.
Again, not every industry has benefited from NAFTA; in fact, some companies have been harmed. However, Michigan's exports to Mexico and Canada have become much stronger since NAFTA was passed and many Michigan businesses have grown due to NAFTA. At the very least, it is difficult to statistically argue that NAFTA has harmed Michigan's economy, its workers, or its consumers. On balance, lifting trade restrictions and lowering tariffs have been positive steps toward increasing the prosperity and standards of living for Michigan citizensand citizens throughout America, Canada, and Mexico.