Perot visits Annapolis to slam NAFTA He again insists thousands of jobs would go to Mexico

September 18, 1993|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,Staff Writer

Armed with the requisite one-liners, Ross Perot met briefly with supporters in Annapolis yesterday to stump against the North American Free Trade Agreement and brush off charges that he is a demagogue.

During a meeting with about 50 members of the Maryland chapter of United We Stand America, Mr. Perot renewed his argument that the agreement, known as NAFTA, would send thousands of jobs to Mexico.

He also said that the three former presidents who so publicly supported the agreement this week -- Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George Bush -- sit on the boards of big businesses that would benefit from cheap labor costs in Mexico.

"That's the way the world turns," Mr. Perot said. "Just look at who made all those bad trade agreements. Most of them were one-term presidents and most of them were standing there."

But Mr. Perot did not cite any specific connections between the former presidents and businesses and refused to take reporters' questions.

United We Stand America is a nonprofit organization that focuses on the same domestic issues Mr. Perot championed in his bid for the presidency -- controlling the federal deficit, jobs creation and government waste.

The Maryland chapter claims to have 20,000 members.

Mr. Perot stopped by the group's office overlooking City Dock on his way to celebrate his 40th reunion at the U.S. Naval Academy.

During the get-together, he still seemed to be smarting from comments Tuesday by former President Carter, who called Mr. Perot a "demagogue" during a speech at the White House.

President Clinton and the three former presidents have said NAFTA would create jobs at home and foreign policy dividends in the hemisphere.

They have also assailed critics for trying to frighten the public away from the agreement.

"Unfortunately, in our country now we have a demagogue who has unlimited financial resources and who is extremely careless with the truth, who is preying on the fears and uncertainties of the American public," Mr. Carter said.

Mr. Perot dismissed the charge, saying he has been called much worse.

"I've been called everything but a drive-by shooter," he said.

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