John Manzella addresses trade, labor and immigration during the FGIA Annual Conference.

John Manzella, noted author and speaker on trade issues, broke down some myths related to trade, labor and immigration for members of the Fenestration and Glazing Industry Alliance (FGIA) during the Annual Conference yesterday. “If you go down the street, nine out of ten people will tell you trade is bad,” he said. “And nine out of ten people will tell you free trade is terrible.”

The truth, though, according to Manzella’s figures, is that trade supports one in five U.S. jobs and increased household income by more than $18,000 in 2016. Unfortunately, it’s the negative news that sells, he suggested.

He also said these opinions can be attributed to a 1960s mentality that still exists today.

“When U.S. companies invest abroad, they actually fortify their home base,” he said. “So that’s another 1960s mentality that is no longer true.”

China was a big part of Manzella’s presentation—from the novel coronavirus to trade deals.

“I think President Trump was right to take on China, but a better approach would have been to go through the World Trade Organization,” he said. “We didn’t put a dent in the trade deficit and that was the whole point.”

The coronavirus is also creating a great deal of fear, which affects prosperity, he added.

“It really has thrown a bigger wrench into this whole situation,” said Manzella, who also pointed out that companies are leaving China for other countries, including Mexico and Europe.

Regarding the current low unemployment rate, at 3.6%, Manzella pointed out that this is not reflective of what’s actually happening, then he dug deeper.

“U.S. worker participation rates are decreasing,” he said. “One in seven men are long-term unemployed,” which is exacerbated by the opioid crisis, he added. This is particularly hard hitting in rural areas where employees have lost jobs in manufacturing sectors due to plant closures.

Another factor making it hard for companies to find employees includes an alarming statistic regarding college graduates: only 40% graduate on time.

“We can’t hire them, as they are still in school,” said Manzella.