Critics of free trade argued at a panel discussion Thursday that the demise of American manufacturing will be the downfall of the United States.
"When we lose our manufacturing base, then we have the haves and the have-nots, and then we will live in a Third World country," U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, R-S.C., said at the Augusta State University-sponsored event.
The discussion, titled How does U.S. Trade Policy Affect Jobs in the CSRA? A Panel Discussion Highlighting the Crisis in American Manufacturing, was arranged by Paul Harris, an associate professor of political science at ASU.
In addition to Mr. Barrett, the panel featured North Augusta native Auggie Tantillo, the director of the American Trade and Manufacturers Action Committee, and Jim Nesbitt, the South Carolina bureau chief for The Augusta Chronicle.
Mr. Tantillo, the panel's main speaker, said unfair trade practices are making China the world's leading manufacturer.
"Countries like China aren't looking for a competitive advantage, they're looking for a complete advantage," he said.
Mr. Tantillo said he and his action group are pushing for trade reform to make it easier for U.S. manufacturers to compete against China's lower wages and reckless environmental policies. If no such reforms are put in place, he said, the United States will lose its position as the world's leading economic and military power.
"If we are making China the single greatest manufacturing power, are we not making them the single greatest military power?" he said.
About 65 people attended the discussion, many of whom were there for extra credit in Mr. Harris' classes.
Reach James Gallagher at (706) 823-3227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.