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NAFTA is not just about destroying good blue-collar jobs. White-collar American professionals will also see their jobs disappear and their standard of living fall as, because of NAFTA, professional standards and licensing practices and requirements are harmonized across the continent. The effect will be a substantial downward pressure on white-collar compensation, something strongly advocated by no less a luminary than former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan.

At a conference on maintaining the competitiveness of U.S. capital markets on March 13, Greenspan said that it was essential to flood the United States with foreign professionals in order to drive down salaries of high earners. "Our skilled wages are higher than anywhere in the world," Greenspan said, according to Bloomberg News. "If we open up a significant window for skilled workers, that would suppress the skilled-wage level and end the concentration of income."

That could be accomplished by harmonizing licensing and professional requirements across all three nations. Doing so would result in a larger supply of licensed professionals, driving down rates paid for professional services and possibly driving some in the United States out of business, while simultaneously making it harder for new U.S. professionals to get established.

In accounting, the harmonization of licensing began very early in the evolution of NAFTA. The CPA Journal reported in 1995: "In addition to harmonizing accounting standards, there is also an initiative to extend licensing to the professionals of other NAFTA countries. Partly as a consequence of the predecessor U.S./Canada free trade agreement, the AICPA [American Institute of Certified Public Accountants] and the CICA [Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants] have developed special examinations for CAs and CPAs interested in becoming licensed members of the other professional body. In November 1993, the AICPA administered the first such examination, while CPAs took the fast shortened CA examination in May."

The groundwork for this kind of harmonization has been laid in other professions since NAFTA, though resistance remains. A case in point is the engineering profession. Writing for the Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta, Canadian engineer Darrel Danyluk notes "that a NAFTA Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) was signed by Canadian, American and Mexican representatives in 1995" and that "the accord provides a means for recognizing the qualifications of engineers working temporarily in another NAFTA jurisdiction." But, he complains, it hasn't been implemented in the United States. "The National Society of Professional Engineers, and the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology in the U.S. ratified the MRA without reservations in 1995. The third American national body which had to ratify the MRA, the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying, gave provisional ratification for a two-year period which now has expired. The expiration of the NCEES ratification has had the effect of making the MRA technically unapproved in the U.S."
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Publication:The New American
Date:Apr 16, 2007
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