By Alex Gonzalez
Newt Gingrich is big idea leader when it comes to free trade and geopolitics, especially for the Americas. As Speaker of the House of Representatives, Congressman Newt Gingrich was instrumental in the passage of NAFTA. Therefore, it is fair to say that NAFTA would not exist without Congressman Gingrich’s support and efforts as Speaker of the House. He strongly supported the legislation, and was a harsh critic of those who claimed it would result in U.S. job loss to Central America. It is possible that those Republicans who are scolding Gingrich are the same who opposed Newt’s vision for larger free market in the Americans in the 1990s, especially NAFTA. But it was precisely those policies that Gingrich muscled-down in the House that created a very prosperous economy throughout the 90s under a democrat presidency.
In 1993, Congressman Gingrich spoke on the House floor and stated that the idea that Mexico will hijack our industrial base was a myth. He also stated that the US could see large financial benefits from NAFTA in 10-15 years. And he was right. Currently our trade with Mexico has increased 7 times over since NAFTA was enacted, reaching $360 billion annually. Gingrich believed that a “prosperous, stable, and democratic Mexico would be a better neighbor than a poor, unstable and undemocratic Mexico as higher economic growth would ultimately reduce illegal immigration into the United States.” Mexicans could stay home and get jobs. And, this is exactly is what is happening in Mexico, despite the violence.
Despite the populist rhetoric on immigration, fences, and the violence in Mexico, the trade between Mexico, the US, and Canada under NAFTA stands as a positive beacon of hope for free trade and capitalism. Specifically, just in 2010, the trade between the U.S. and its North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners, Canada and Mexico, jumped a record 24.3% in 2010. U.S.-Canada surface transportation trade totaled $471 billion in 2010, an increase of 22.1 %. The value of imports carried by truck from Canada was 17.3% higher in 2010 than 2009 while the value of exports carried by truck rose 21.8 %. Further, surface transportation trade between the U.S. and Mexico totaled $320.3 billion, up 27.6%. Truck imports rose 26.5% while exports rose 24.3%. The total merchandise trade among the United States, Canada, and Mexico reached $944.6 billion in 2010, an increase of 218% since 1993. Canada and Mexico are our first and third largest. Newt Gingrich has always been a friend to Latin America and Mexico; he wants to create a legal free trade, within a legal frame work.
So the views of Newt Gingrich towards Latin American are very simple. Poverty is temporary state that can be overcomed with free markets. The free trade will lift up those in extreme poverty, and thereby, to middle-income won’t have to immigrate illegally to US. Therefore, Newt Gingrich as president could be a bigger promoter of free trade between Latin America and the U.S.
The other issue that Newt Gingrich was successful was Welfare Reform and the decrease of poverty in the nation. The Republican in the House, led by Gingrich, forced Clinton to overhaul welfare. Which also cut poverty levels in the US and led to low unemployment by 1999. When Gingrich became speaker of the House, unemployment was 6.5% but by 1999, when Gingrich left, or was force to leave, unemployment had felt to 4.4%. So unlike what people think, poverty really did not fall during the Reagan years. Reagan only bloc-granted Welfare to states but did not decease poverty, it was the Gingrich’s years in that made all this possible. In 1987, the official poverty level was 32 million or 12% of the population. By 1999, 12.4 percent of the U.S. population, or 33.9 million people, reported 1999 family incomes that were below the poverty thresholds, down from 13.1 percent in 1989.
With the two of the most persistent problems in America like lost manufacturing and the fact that we have 50 million of Americans on food stamps, Newt Gingrich experience with free trade and Welfare Reform can be real solution to our widespread economic problem. Perhaps, those who now scold Gingrich are the same Republicans who claimed that NAFTA would result in U.S. job loss and now see a time to get a Gingrich.
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