Have trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and China and other emerging market countries joining the World Trade Organization accelerated the effects of global warming? In my view, yes, they have.
I agree with Donald Trump that trade agreements have been bad for U.S. workers and our economy. These deals have been very good for employers with unions who were then able to shutter their U.S. plants and replace production with facilities in Mexico, China, India and other emerging markets, where labor laws and pollution control are almost non-existent. Consumers of steel, aluminum and copper have benefited from metals production moving to emerging markets.
However, I have not heard of any of these deals resulting in a trade surplus for the U.S. When I worked for the United States Agency for International Development, it appeared to me that trade agreements were a part of our foreign aid program, in addition to allowing manufacturing companies to increase offshore production.
I'm surprised that Trump has not talked about the terrible toll that trade deals have had on the ecology and people of China, as well as other emerging markets. All of these countries are exempt from the Kyoto Protocol and as a result are not burdened by pollution standards. Between 10% and 20% of the air pollution on the U.S. West Coast comes from China.
There is a massive amount of pollution in China coming from many sources. It's in the air, in the water, and even in the soil now. Some experts say that millions of people are at risk of an early death because of China's unbridled push to take over so much of the manufacturing of the industrialized world.
The graph below shows the increase in the global mean surface temperature; it is clear that the temperature started to climb around the time Nafta became the law of the land -- and then really took off once China entered the WTO in December 2001. George H.W. Bush was president then, but the Clinton administration negotiated the agreements allowing China to enter the WTO. Many people at the time complained that the trade deals would cause job losses, as well as pollution.
I contend that one of effects of carbon taxes in industrialized countries has been to increase the problem of global greenhouse gas emissions. Efforts by Europe and other industrialized nations have been like clapping with one hand. Industrialized countries forcing heavy industries to flee to the emerging world made matters much worse.