Trucks cross the World Trade Bridge which links Nuevo Laredo, Mexico to Laredo, Texas. Americans are nearly evenly divided on whether the North American Free Trade Agreement was a good thing or a bad thing for the United States. U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to withdraw or renegotiate from NAFTA, which he has said is a "bad deal" that benefits Mexico and Canada at the expense of the United States. File Photo by Joe Mitchell UPI | License Photo
Feb. 24 (UPI) -- A Gallup poll shows Americans are divided on whether they believe the North American Free Trade Agreement was a good thing or a bad thing for the United States.
In the poll, 48 percent of Americans said NAFTA was good for the United States, while 46 percent said it was bad.
When Gallup first asked Americans about NAFTA's effects in 1997, 37 percent said it was good, 47 percent said it was bad and 16 percent had no opinion. Gallup said that the next time it asked the same question in 2000, 47 percent said it was good, 39 percent said it was bad and 14 percent had no opinion. The next time Gallup asked, 38 percent said it was good, 46 percent said it was bad and 16 percent had no opinion.
After more than a decade since asking, Gallup finds that Americans are almost split over the issue. President Donald Trump has vowed to renegotiate or withdraw from NAFTA -- calling the agreement the "worst trade deal in history."
"NAFTA is a complex trade agreement that many Americans may not understand. Economists still disagree on whether it has been effective," Gallup wrote. "Trump has promised to forge bilateral trade agreements with nations across the globe, but it remains to be seen whether the president will establish separate agreements with both Canada and Mexico."
There is a sharp divide along party lines on the question. On whether NAFTA is good for the United States, 67 percent of Democrats said it was good, 53 percent of independents said it was good and 22 percent of Republicans said it was good. In 2004, 40 percent of Republicans and 39 percent of Democrats said NAFTA was good for the United States.
"At this point, Americans are divided along predictable partisan lines over NAFTA, though the partisan divide is a recent development," Gallup writes. "If NAFTA survives -- albeit with Trump's stamp on it -- it is likely that Republican support for the pact will increase. It will be more interesting to see whether Democratic and independent support for NAFTA will decline."
NAFTA was signed by President Bill Clinton and ratified by both houses of Congress in 1993. It went into effect the next year, in 1994, liberalizing trade among the three North American countries: Mexico, Canada and the United States. The trade agreement reduced or eliminated tariffs on most products, creating one of the world's largest free trade zones, and aimed to help small businesses by lowering costs and reducing bureaucracy in trade.
Trump vowed to "renegotiate NAFTA or withdraw from the deal under Article 2205" within his first 100 days in office. Trump has repeatedly said NAFTA is a "bad deal" that has harmed Americans while benefiting Mexico and Canada.
In 2015, the U.S. Congressional Research Service said NAFTA's effects were neither damaging nor helpful.
"In reality, NAFTA did not cause the huge job losses feared by the critics or the large economic gains predicted by supporters," the independent report said. "The net overall effect of NAFTA on the U.S. economy appears to have been relatively modest, primarily because trade with Canada and Mexico accounts for a small percentage of U.S. GDP."