Trade Agreements

926 words | 4 page(s)

The United States is involved in a number of trade agreements. As a long-time proponent of free trade around the world, the US has at times tried to lead by example by entering into such agreements. With this in mind, one of the most important agreements for the US has been NAFTA. NAFTA is the North American Free Trade Agreement, and it is between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. It seeks to create a free trade zone on the continent, allowing goods and services to flow more freely between the countries.

While it was not officially installed until Bill Clinton took office, other presidents worked with the regional partners to put the agreement into place even prior to Clinton’s influence. It has been the subject of significant discussion among American scholars, and recently, there has been criticism of this agreement mostly because it has eroded some environmental standards and cost the country jobs (Cherniwchan, 2017). In his political campaign, Donald Trump made this agreement into a major issue, splitting the nation in some ways (Faber et al, 2016).

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The United States is a world power, but it is not without its faults. The US has gone through something of a chance in its economic standing over the last few decades. While the US used to be a powerhouse in manufacturing, many of those jobs have left the country. The country has shifted to more of a technology and knowledge economy. Likewise, the country has seen less regulation over the last few years. The Great Recession threatened to take down the world of American banking, which inflicted serious damage on the economy during 2008 and 2009. The recovery from that period has been slow, but it has been steady.

One of the major social issues in the United States of late has been the loss of jobs in rural and Appalachian areas. Parts of Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Virginia have seen their jobs go away. From there, the manufacturing centers of the Midwest, including Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and even Wisconsin have seen a loss of jobs. These are people who have seen their factories shut down, with jobs moving overseas. They have also been replaced in some cases by machines that can do the job better and cheaper. In many of these places, the coal mines and plants were a major part of the economy. They were the lifeblood, and when the jobs moved away, the towns all but crumbled. This, of course, has led to a series of sub-issues in these communities. When jobs go away, people tend to be unhealthier. They struggle with substance abuse. They have mental health problems. Life spans shorten and quality of life goes down. This has certainly been the case in many parts of rural America, the Rust Belt, and coal country.

NAFTA has been a part of why many of these jobs have gone away and left communities crumbling. While there are obviously some good elements about NAFTA, including the fact that it helps to reduce prices for consumers, it has made it much easier for American companies to set up factories in Mexico, where they can pay their employees less money for the same work (Wright, 2015). The problem for the people in these areas is that there is no replacement coming (Broughton, 2014). They pay less for what they buy at Wal-Mart, but they are not able to access educational opportunities that might allow them to take over the new jobs in the new knowledge economy. Often, there is a discussion on this problem and people struggling with this are told they should just get an education and land a job in technology. While this looks good on paper, it does not make much sense in the real world, where many of the people are so far removed from educational opportunities that they would not even know where to start. Because NAFTA has incentivized companies to move their operations away from the currently struggling towns, the agreement has played a major role in creating a social issue and exacerbating other surrounding social issues, as well (Cleve et al, 2016).

The Christian Appalachian Organization is an outreach program that has sought to help people who have lost their coal jobs and factory jobs in the Appalachian part of the country. The goal of this organization has been multi-fold. They understand that when people lose their jobs and the jobs do not appear to be coming back, they need hope, care, and support. These people have emotional, physical, and mental needs. CAO has gone into these communities to try to provide support not only for the adults without jobs, but for the children who end up in trouble because of what happens with their parents in these communities.

The primary services they provide are hunger and poverty relief, and child development services. They provide direct support for people who are hungry in these areas. They help people with their homes and the like. On top of that, they provide counseling services for children who may be struggling to understand what is going on in these communities. It is fair to say that this organization is not working to correct the root of the social issue as much as they are trying to be an emergency triage organization. CAO does nothing to bring back jobs that have been lost. They do help people who have been impacted by these changes get the critical support they need so they can live lives that are rewarding and so their children can have a chance at success.

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