Free Trade Treaties Only Benefit The Few

Thomas Gibson, The News Journal Since the United States entered into the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization in the 1990s, more than 42,000 factories have been closed. The automobiles, appliances, furniture, computers, clothing and other products formerly made in those factories are now being made by workers in low-wage countries like China, Mexico and Indonesia – then shipped in huge containers over thousands of miles of land and sea to the U.S. This great upheaval in the way business has been conducted in the U.S., this contrary approach of manufacturing daily necessities thousands of miles from where they are purchased and used, has ravaged communities and families all over our country. In Newton, Iowa, the manufacture of Maytag washing machines had dominated life for generations. When the factory was closed in 2007, 1,800 jobs were eliminated from a town population of 16,000. The town of Greenville, Mich., offered to build a new refrigerator factory for the Electrolux Group if they would stay, but Electrolux continued with its plans to relocate. Twenty-seven hundred jobs were wrenched from a community of 8,000 as a result. Both companies moved to Mexico to obtain $1.50-an-hour labor. In the late 1990s, Reading, Pa., invested public funds to attract an Agere telecommunications equipment factory that provided 3,000 new jobs. A few years later, Agere moved part of the operation outside the country and the rest to another Agere site in the U.S. Reading was left with an empty factory, a $500,000 shortfall in property taxes and a drop in annual average salaries from $42,000 to $31,000. U.S. multinational leaders have embraced moving their manufacturing to low-wage countries (outsourcing) as if it were a sound, long-term strategy. However, as authors Ron Hira and Anil Hira point out in “Outsourcing America,” it is not sustainable. “Outsourcing signals that even hardworking, well-educated and highly skilled American workers may no longer be able to achieve success. Despite the effort of many young and middle-aged people to make a new life by retraining, there can be no retraining for positions that do not exist. “When large numbers of jobs are lost, the effects are felt not just by a few families whom economists assume will find their way. Opportunities for gainful employment provide the very lifeblood and social fabric for whole neighborhoods,” they add. “With the loss of key jobs, public services and tax bases are affected and more than economics is at stake. For example, how are the benefits of lower prices from outsourcing going to be reaped, if no one has a job to pay for these services?” They conclude with this important warning: “But perhaps the most devastating impact is felt by the next generation, who will enter the job market with few clear prospects for gainful employment. What motivation can they find if the most high-paying and technically skilled jobs are following the wave of manufacturing jobs lost earlier?” Looking back on the last 20 years, should we not question whether it was rational and ethical to have given 9 million American jobs to workers in low-wage countries? Should we not adopt as policy that as long as there is no shortage of workers, American citizens deserve the right to make most of the products found in their neighborhood stores? And should we not insist that our political leaders in Washington break their greedy ties with the multinational leaders, change our destructive trade laws and move back to balanced trade – so we the people again have the opportunity to work? Read original post here.