Say this much for Ross Perot's glossy new propaganda pamphlet: It has a descriptive title -- "Save Your Job, Save Our Country; Why NAFTA Must be Stopped -- Now." And it is colored purple, which is an appropriate hue for Perot-style prose, bombast, distortion, omission, innuendo, sloganeering, exaggeration, demagogy, and plain old lies.
The Clinton administration's chief trade representative, Mickey Kantor, has issued a memo listing no less than 193 -- repeat 193 -- "inaccuracies, errors and misleading statements" in Mr. Perot's 143-page book. Even for a fast-talker like the billionaire eccentric from Texas, this is fast-paced falsehooding.
But the problem is that the Kantor statement is mimeographed -- just plain old black print on white paper -- and is not available at bookstores or newstands that peddle the Perot best-seller. The contrast shows why pro-NAFTA forces are getting drubbed in the battle for public opinion as politicians, including most of the Maryland delegation, duck for cover.
Before this struggle concludes near the end of the year, President Clinton will have to use his bully puplit to take on his tormentor from Texas. Meanwhile, others will have to make the case that NAFTA will create American jobs, not lose them; that NAFTA will keep U.S. industries at home by eliminating the Mexican tariffs they now avoid by moving south of the Rio Grande; that NAFTA will improve Mexican labor and environmental standards, to the benefit of Americans, and that NAFTA will curb rather than increase Mexican migration to the United States.
Because Baltimore is an automobile town, with its big General Motors plant on Broening Highway, it is instructive how Mr. Kantor handles Mr. Perot's contention that auto industry jobs will go south. The Perot book alleges that "The United States agreed to immediately drop its tariffs on automobiles imported from Mexico. . .while allowing Mexico to keep half its tariffs on vehicles produced in the United States. The remaining Mexican tariffs would be phased out over a 10-year period."
Mr. Kantor's reponse: "The fact is that the United States is already open to Mexican-produced automobiles, whereas a variety of factors leave the Mexican market closed to U.S. autos. NAFTA will open the Mexican market. That is why the Big Three auto producers estimate that NAFTA will increase annual U.S. auto exports from the current level of only 1,000 vehicles to over 60,000 vehicles in the first year of NAFTA."
Unless the anti-NAFTA movement, including organized labor, can refute that assertion convincingly -- and we don't believe it can -- Baltimore residents including the workforce on Broening Highway should reject the Perot propaganda. All U.S. citizens should give their support to a treaty that will energize the entire North American economy and add immeasurably to the hemisphere's competitiveness and political stability.