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Working class hurt by free-trade deal

Calgary Sun, Canada

Working class hurt by free-trade deal

29 September 2006


WASHINGTON — Free trade in North America has resulted in sharp gains for the rich at the expense of the average Canadian worker, says a report from the U.S. Economic Policy Institute released yesterday.

In fact, lower-income Canadians are worse off than they were before free trade and cuts to federal social programs at the same time have compounded the problem, said co-author Bruce Campbell, executive director at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The Ottawa-based think-tank is an independent non-partisan organization that promotes research on economic and social policy "from a progressive point of view" — according to its website — and concerns about social and economic justice.

The U.S. institute carries out economic research and education, with a "concern for the living standards of working people."

While trade between the NAFTA partners has grown rapidly, the free-trade deals have not helped all workers, the report says.

"The most striking feature of this growing inequality has been the massive gains of the richest one percent of income earners at the expense of most of the population," said Campbell, who called for a major assessment of the costs and benefits of the North American Free-Trade Agreement.

The report found similar problems in Mexico and, to a lesser extent, the U.S.

"In each nation, workers’ share of the gains from rising productivity fell and the proportion of income and wealth going to those at the very top of the economic pyramid grew," said Jeff Faux, founder of the Washington-based think-tank.