Free-Trade Deals Would Be Costly To U.S.

Tim Burga, Dispatch Politics For over a decade, the labor movement and development advocates have called for fair-trade policy that is part of a more coordinated and coherent national economic strategy. Unfortunately, the Korean, Colombian and Panamanian free-trade deals before Congress do not address the fundamental policy failures of the North American Free Trade Agreement and China's inclusion into "favored nation status," which has led to catastrophic job loss in the U.S. and the explosion of our import/export deficit, now reaching $500 billion annually. During this so-called "free-trade" era of bad deals, our nation has lost more than 3 million good manufacturing jobs. And, according to a recent Wright State University study commissioned by the Dayton Tooling and Manufacturing Association, Ohio alone has lost more than 345,000 manufacturing jobs over the past decade. We need to focus on domestic job-creation efforts, not passing additional NAFTA-style agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama. Our trade agreements should strive to reach a level playing field where U.S. companies can fairly trade goods and products with other countries, without barriers and conditions that limit or prevent our exporting. Unfortunately, these trade deals on the table fall short of delivering on this goal. We cannot expect our workers to trust these deals when we have seen U.S. multinational companies take advantage of foreign government subsidies and other corporate protections in similar trade deals to shift production abroad, while maintaining access to the U.S. consumer market and undermining the jobs, wages and bargaining power of American workers. With respect to the Korean trade deal, the labor movement has consistently argued that the investment and government-procurement provisions in this proposal will encourage off-shoring of U.S jobs. And despite some progress made, South Korean workers continue to face repeated challenges to their fundamental human rights of freedom of association and the right to organize and bargain collectively. It is essential that South Korea bring its labor laws and practices fully into compliance with international standards prior to implementation of the agreement. The Korea deal also fails to address the potential problem of currency manipulation and contains lax provisions on rule-of-origin manufacturing that will restrict the export of American made products. We also are concerned that this trade agreement leaves open the possibility that goods produced in the North Korean free-trade zone could gain access to the United States. This possibility is dire because of the horrendous labor-rights record in the North Korea free-trade zone and perhaps the lowest wage levels in the world, which only serves to expedite the "race to the bottom" where workers everywhere lose. In addition to fundamentally reforming our trade policy to recognize internationally accepted human-rights, labor-law, environmental and monetary standards, the United States must implement an industrial strategy in line with our global competitors by supporting domestic production. This approach must include tax policy, infrastructure, work-force training and technology investments that support our basic and newly emerging industries and our manufacturing workers. The stinging irony is that most likely the passage of these trade deals will include the continuance of trade adjustment assistance for U.S. workers who lose their jobs because of bad trade deals. To be sure, if the Korean, Panamanian and Colombian trade deals go through as written, more Ohio workers will need this assistance. Read original post here.