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  • Eyes on Trade is a blog by the staff of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch (GTW) division. GTW aims to promote democracy by challenging corporate globalization, arguing that the current globalization model is neither a random inevitability nor "free trade." Eyes on Trade is a space for interested parties to share information about globalization and trade issues, and in particular for us to share our watchdogging insights with you! GTW director Lori Wallach's initial post explains it all.

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April 07, 2014

Colombia's Anti-Union Violence Remains Rampant after Three Years of the FTA-Enabling Labor Action Plan

Three years ago, the Obama administration signed a Labor Action Plan (LAP) with the Colombian government, promising that it would help rectify rampant labor rights abuses in Colombia, a country in which more than 3,000 unionists have been murdered since 1977.

Six months after its announcement, the LAP served as a fig leaf for the controversial Colombia “free trade” agreement (FTA), enabling the deal’s passage in the U.S. Congress. Trying to fend off criticism for pitting U.S. workers against Colombian workers who faced widespread labor abuses, the few Democratic members of Congress who voted for the deal pointed to the LAP as a solution to Colombia's labor rights crisis.  

Unions and congressional labor rights defenders in Colombia and the United States warned at the time of the FTA’s passage that the LAP would fail to alter the on-the-ground reality of anti-union repression. 

Sadly, they were right. 

In the three years since the LAP was unveiled, 73 Colombian unionists have been murdered, according to a report released today by Colombia’s National Union School, a group recognized by the LAP as an authoritative source of monitoring data. There were four more unionist murders in 2013 than in 2012.

Colombia’s workers have also endured 31 murder attempts and 953 death threats since the LAP was announced.  These crimes have not resulted in any captures, trials, or convictions. The overall impunity rate for unionist murders from 1977 through the present is 87%, while impunity for anti-union death threats stands at 99.9%. 

Colombia’s unions and the National Union School conclude that the decision to sign the LAP “was taken by the Colombian government as a step toward unfreezing the FTA with the United States rather than as an institutional mechanism to promote real protection of the labor and union rights that Colombian workers have lacked for so long.”

The same, unfortunately, could probably be said about some members of the U.S. Congress who were more interested in the LAP’s ability to provide political cover for the polemical Colombia FTA than its ability to provide relief to Colombia’s repressed workers.

Other members of Congress who supported the LAP with a sincere desire to improve the labor rights situation in Colombia (despite warnings from on-the-ground experts that the LAP would fail to do so) must feel betrayed by the administration officials who promised the LAP would herald such improvement.

Now the administration is making similar promises in pushing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a sweeping deal with 11 Pacific Rim countries, including Vietnam.  While Vietnam does not share Colombia's history of widespread unionist murders, workers in Vietnam are prohibited from forming independent unions and are paid an average minimum wage of 52 cents per hour. And Vietnam's apparel industry, which could gain greater access to the U.S. market through the TPP, relies on forced labor and child labor.  

Administration officials are arguing, as they did in pushing the LAP and the Colombia FTA, that the TPP will provide an opportunity to curb labor rights abuses in Vietnam. Will the members of Congress who supported the ill-fated LAP once again buy into such promises?  Or will they heed the lesson of the ongoing repression faced by Colombia's workers?  

February 19, 2014

Fact-checking Froman: The Top 10 Myths Used by Obama’s Top Trade Official

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman tried in a speech yesterday to defend the Obama administration’s beleaguered trade policy agenda: the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) pacts and an unpopular push to Fast Track those sweeping deals through Congress.  The list of those publicly opposing the Fast Track push includes most House Democrats, a sizeable bloc of House Republicans, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and 62% of the U.S. voting public

In attempt to justify the administration’s polemical pacts, Froman resorted to some statements of dubious veracity, ranging from half-truths to outright mistruths.  To set the record straight, here are the top 10 Froman fables, followed by inconvenient facts that undercut his assertions and help explain the widespread opposition to TPP, TAFTA, and Fast Track.

1. Access to affordable medicines

  • Froman:  “[In TPP] we’re working to find better ways to foster affordable access to medicines…” 

2. Income inequality

  • Froman:  “Our trade policy is a major lever for encouraging investment here at home in manufacturing, agriculture and services, creating more high-paying jobs and combating wage stagnation and income inequality.”
  • Fact:  First, study after study has shown no correlation between a country’s willingness to sign on to TPP-style pacts and its ability to attract foreign investment, casting doubt on Froman’s promise of a job-creating investment influx.  But more importantly, Froman opted to ignore a big part of why U.S. workers are currently enduring such acute levels of “wage stagnation and income inequality.”  He did not mention the academic consensus that status quo U.S. trade policy, which the TPP would expand, has contributed significantly to the historic rise in U.S. income inequality.  The only debate has been the extent of trade’s inequality-exacerbating impact.  A recent study estimates that trade flows have been responsible for more than 90% of the rise in income inequality occurring since 1995, a period characterized by trade pacts that have incentivized the offshoring of decently-paid U.S. jobs and forced U.S. workers to compete with poorly-paid workers abroad.  How can the TPP, a proposed expansion of the trade policies that have exacerbated inequality, now be expected to ameliorate inequality? 

3. Internet freedom

  • Froman:  “I’ve heard some critics suggest that TPP is in some way related to SOPA [the Stop Online Piracy Act].  Don’t believe it.  It just isn’t true….”
  • Fact:  Froman’s attempt to assuage fears of a TPP-provided backdoor to SOPA-like limits on Internet freedom would be more convincing if a) he offered details beyond “it just isn’t true,” or b) if his statement didn’t directly contradict leaked TPP texts.  A November leak of the draft TPP intellectual property chapter revealed, for example, that the U.S. is proposing draconian copyright liability rules for Internet service providers that, like SOPA, threaten to curtail Internet users’ free speech.  Indeed, while nearly all other TPP countries have agreed to a proposed provision to limit Internet service providers’ liability, the United States is one of two countries to oppose such flexibility.

4. Corporate trade advisors

  • Froman:  “Our cleared advisors do include representatives from the private sector… [but] they [also] include representatives from every major labor union, public health groups…environmental groups…as well as development NGOs...” 
  • Froman:  “I’m pleased to announce that we are upgrading our advisory system to provide a new forum for experts on issues like public health, development and consumer safety.  A new Public Interest Trade Advisory Committee, or PTAC, will join the Labor Advisory Committee and the Trade and Environment Policy Advisory Committees to provide cross-cutting platforms for input in the negotiations.”
  • Fact:  Froman’s announcement of a new “public interest” committee – a response to the outcry over the vast imbalance of this corporate-dominated advisory system – offers too little, too late. Amid a slew of advisory committees exclusively devoted to narrow industry interests, the “public interest” now gets a single committee?  And how much influence will this committee have in changing the many core TPP provisions that threaten the public interest, now that the administration hopes to conclude TPP negotiations, which have been going on for four years, in the coming months?  Proposed as a TPP afterthought, this new committee comes across as window-dressing, not a genuine restructuring of a system that gives corporations insider access to an otherwise closed trade negotiation process.

5. Fast Track

  • Froman:  Fast Track is “the mechanism by which Congress has worked with every administration since 1974 to define its marching orders on what to negotiate…”  We can use Fast Track to “require[] future administrations to require labor, environmental and innovation and access to medicines [standards]…”
  • Fact:  Under Fast Track, Congress has not given the administration “marching orders” so much as marching suggestions.  Though Congress inserted non-binding “negotiating objectives” for U.S. pacts into past Fast Track bills – a model replicated in the unpopular current legislation to revive Fast Track for the TPP and TAFTA – Democratic and GOP presidents alike have historically ignored negotiating objectives included in Fast Track.  For example, Froman stated that Fast Track could be used to require particular labor standards.  But while the 1988 Fast Track used for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) included a negotiating objective on labor standards, neither pact included such terms.  The history shows that Fast-Tracked pacts that ignore Congress’ priorities can still be signed by the president (locking in the agreements’ contents) before being sent to Congress for an expedited, ex-post vote in which amendments are prohibited and debate is restricted. 

6. Currency manipulation

  • Froman:  In response to a question of whether currency manipulation is being addressed in the TPP: “We take the issue of exchange rates or currency manipulation very seriously as a matter of policy…”
  • Fact:  U.S. TPP negotiators have not even initiated negotiations on the inclusion of binding disciplines on currency manipulation, much less secured other countries’ commitment to those disciplines.  The U.S. inaction on currency in the TPP contrasts with letters signed by 230 Representatives (a majority) and 60 Senators (a supermajority) demanding the inclusion of currency manipulation disciplines in the TPP.  Unless U.S. negotiators take currency manipulation more “seriously,” the TPP may be dead on arrival in the U.S. Congress. 

7. Labor rights

  • Froman:  “In TPP we’re seeking to include disciplines requiring adherence to fundamental labor rights, including the right to organize and to collectively bargain, protections from child and forced labor and employment discrimination.” 
  • Fact:  The TPP includes Vietnam, a country that bans independent unions.  And Vietnam was recently red-listed by the Department of Labor as one of just four countries that use both child labor and forced labor in apparel production.  While Froman acknowledged such “serious challenges,” he did not explain how they would be resolved.  Is Vietnam going to change its fundamental labor laws so as to allow independent unions?  Is the government going to revamp its enforcement mechanisms so as to eliminate the country’s widespread child and forced labor?  Barring such sweeping changes, will the U.S. still sign on to a TPP that includes Vietnam?  

8. Environmental protection

  • Froman:  “We’re asking our trading partners to commit to effectively enforce environmental laws…”
  • Fact:  While Froman touted several provisions in the draft TPP environment chapter as requiring enforcement of domestic environmental laws, he didn’t mention the draft TPP investment chapter that would empower foreign corporations to directly challenge those laws before international tribunals if they felt the laws undermined their expected future profits.  Corporations have been increasingly using these extreme “investor-state” provisions under existing U.S. “free trade” agreements (FTAs) to attack domestic environmental policies, including a moratorium on fracking, renewable energy programs, and requirements to clean up oil pollution and industrial toxins.  Tribunals comprised of three private attorneys have already ordered taxpayers to pay hundreds of millions to foreign firms for such safeguards, arguing that they violate sweeping FTA-granted investor privileges.  Froman’s call for countries to enforce their environmental laws sounds hollow under a TPP that would simultaneously empower corporations to “sue” countries for said enforcement.

9. TPP secrecy

  • Froman:  “Let me make one thing absolutely clear: any member of Congress can see the negotiating text anytime they request it.”
  • Fact:  For three full years negotiations, members of Congress were not able to see the bracketed negotiating text of the TPP, a deal that would rewrite broad swaths of domestic U.S. policies.  Only after mounting outcry among members of Congress and the public about this astounding degree of secrecy did the administration begin sharing the negotiating text with members of Congress last June.  Even so, the administration still only provides TPP text access under restrictive terms for many members of Congress, such as requiring that technical staff not be present and forbidding the member of Congress from taking detailed notes or keeping a copy of the text.  Meanwhile, the U.S. public remains shut out, with the Obama administration refusing to make public any part of the TPP negotiating text.  Such secrecy falls short of the standard of transparency exhibited by the Bush administration, which published online the full negotiating text of the last similarly sweeping U.S. pact (the Free Trade Area of the Americas). 

10. Exports under FTAs

  • Froman:  “Under President Obama, U.S. exports have increased by 50%...”  “Today the post-crisis surge in exports we experienced over the last few years is beginning to recede.  And that’s why we’re working to open markets in the Asia-Pacific and in Europe...”
  • Fact:  U.S. exports grew by a grand total of 0% last year under the current “trade” pact model.   The year before that, they grew by 2%.  Most of the export growth Froman cites came early in Obama’s tenure as a predictable rebound from the global recession that followed the 2007-2008 financial crisis.  At the abysmal export growth rate seen since then, we will not reach Obama’s stated goal to double 2009’s exports until 2054, 40 years behind schedule.  Froman ironically uses this export growth drop-off to argue for more-of-the-same trade policy (e.g. the TPP and TAFTA).  The data simply does not support the oft-parroted pitch that we need TPP-style FTAs to boost exports.  Indeed, the overall growth of U.S. exports to countries that are not FTA partners has exceeded U.S. export growth to countries that are FTA partners by 30 percent over the last decade.  That’s not a solid basis from which to argue, in the name of exports, for yet another FTA. 

April 09, 2013

Two Years after Obama's Colombia "Labor Action Plan," Death Threats against Unionists Persist Unabated

Grim Reality Contrasts with Obama Administration Promises Made to Promote Passage of U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement

Death threats against Colombian union members have remained appallingly high since announcement of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Labor Action Plan according to the Escuela Nacional Sindical (ENS), the group recognized in the Plan as an authoritative source of monitoring data. The data shows that unions and congressional labor rights defenders in Colombia and the United States were sadly correct in opposing the Colombia FTA on concerns of continued violence against workers, while the Obama administration’s promises about the Labor Action Plan were incorrect, said Public Citizen on the two-year anniversary of the Plan.

More than a year after the passage of the Colombia FTA and two years after the Obama administration announced a Labor Action Plan with Colombia to improve its labor rights protections, Colombia remains the world’s deadliest place to be a union member. In the year after the launch of the Labor Action Plan, union members in Colombia received 471 death threats – exactly the same number as the average annual level of death threats in the two years before the Plan, according to the ENS data relied upon under the Plan. At least 20 Colombian unionists were assassinated in 2012 according to ENS data, while the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) reported 35 assassinations last year. Meanwhile, many perpetrators of the over 2,000 existing cases of unionist murders remain free.

In addition, violent mass displacements of Colombians increased 83 percent in 2012 relative to 2011, when the U.S. Congress passed the FTA, according to the Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento. The 130 mass displacements of 2012 added to the five million Colombians who have been displaced in the world’s largest internal displacement crisis. Recent acts of horrific violence and forced displacement have occurred in venues targeted for development under the FTA, such as the port of Buenaventura, according to the Washington Office on Latin America.

Jhonsson TorresSadly, Colombian unions and human rights organizations had predicted that the Labor Action Plan would not alter on-the-ground realities. Among the unionists who have received death threats since the FTA went into effect is Jhonsson Torres, a sugar cane worker who came to Washington to plead with members of Congress not to approve the FTA until and unless labor protections improved. One year ago the general secretary of Jhonsson’s union, also under death threat, was shot and killed while walking with his wife.

“Many people were shocked that the Obama administration would push a trade deal with Colombia, given the record of widespread deadly violence against unionists and human rights defenders, some of it perpetrated by the military and most of it occurring with impunity,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “Now that the Obama administration is responsible for passing this agreement, the question is: what will it do to reverse this horrible trend?”

During his 2008 presidential campaign, then-candidate Obama famously opposed the Colombian FTA, stating in the third debate with Republican nominee Senator John McCain, “we have to stand for human rights and we have to make sure that violence isn’t being perpetrated against workers who are just trying to organize for their rights.

But in April 2012, as anti-union repression remained rampant in Colombia, President Obama travelled to Cartagena to announce the implementation of the FTA. He stated, “this agreement is a win for our workers and the environment because of the strong protections it has for both – commitments we are going to fulfill.

“The complete flip-flop from the reform trade agenda President Obama campaigned on in 2008 to the retrograde policies the administration is negotiating today with Latin American and Asian nations reveals the deep influence big business has on determining U.S trade policies that affect wide swaths of non-trade related issues,” said Wallach. “Despite members of Congress, labor unions and human rights groups in Colombia and the United States pointing out to the Obama administration the deficiencies in this Plan and the lunacy of implementing the FTA before real improvement could be measured, the sad reality is a failed promise to fix the horrifying daily reality of Colombian workers.”

December 10, 2012

Mexican Unions Say No to "Free Trade" Expansion Through the TPP

 

IMG_4562

Above: Celeste Drake (AFL-CIO) and Melinda St. Louis (GTW) pose with representatives from Mexican unions and civil society organizations at a seminar on the dangers of the TPP in Mexico City, Mexico.

Last week, Mexico and Canada took part in their first official closed-door negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “free trade” agreement, which the U.S. has been negotiating for the past 2 ½ years with countries in the Asia-Pacific and Latin America. The TPP would expand the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) model to 11 Pacific Rim countries (and eventually any nation in the Pacific Rim, from China to Russia to Japan, could be included).

In mid-November, Mexican officials hosted negotiators from the 10 other TPP nations in secretive talks in Los Cabos, Baja California. In response, Mexican labor, farmer and fair trade advocates, including the National Workers’ Union (Unión Nacional de Trabajadores--UNT), the National Council of Rural and Fisher Organizations (Consejo Nacional de Organismos Rurales y Pesqueros--CONORP), and the Mexican Action Network against Free Trade (Red Mexicana de Acción Frente al Libre Comercio--RMALC), organized a half day seminar raising concerns about Mexico’s participation in the TPP on November 14 in the Mexican Senate building.

The seminar launched a regional political alliance between partners from Canada (Common Frontiers), the United States (AFL-CIO and Public Citizen), and Mexico (the organizations listed above and others). Senators Fidel Demedicis Hidalgo and Isidro Pedraza Chavez also participated in the seminar and expressed concern about the lack of transparency in the TPP process. The organizers presented this statement to the Mexican press at the end of the seminar (translated below).

Two decades of “Free Trade” is enough: Say No to Expansion through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
Statement of UNT, CONORP and RMALC of Mexico
November 14, 2012

"According to the United States government, big business and the Mexican Ministry of Economy, the TPP is the most ambitious free trade agreement that has ever been proposed in terms of the extent of issues it aims to address, but what the enthusiastic promoters of the trade agreement are hiding is that the true intention is to deepen and complete the commitment made by our country in NAFTA and other free trade agreements signed with various countries.

Through TPP the sectors and powers that have benefited from the previous generation of trade agreements will be strengthened and even larger swaths of our economy will be at the disposal of transnational corporate monopolies. This is the trend of the new era of trade liberalization in the 21st century.

Continue reading "Mexican Unions Say No to "Free Trade" Expansion Through the TPP" »

August 22, 2012

Al Jazeera Asks: Will Colombia's Protesting Workers Be Heard?

This week, as we mark 100 days since the implementation of the Colombia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, volatile protests against General Motors indicate that working conditions have not improved for Colombian workers. Colombia remains the most dangerous place in the world for union organizers, and seven union leaders have been killed this year.

Watch Al-Jazeera's video on the GM workers, who have stictched their mouths shut in a hunger strike, here.

 

June 21, 2012

Can you say "Déjà vu" in Spanish?

Dear Neighbor:

Congratulations on your inclusion in the elite group of states that are currently negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement! Your acceptance into this proposed “historic, 21st century trade agreement” means that much of the “burden” of making laws and regulations for your nation will be taken off of you. No worries; lobbyists for Hollywood and American pharmaceutical companies and more than 600 official “corporate trade advisers” to the Office of United States Trade Representative (USTR) will help take care of the details.

Sorry to mention it, but we’re afraid many of your laws pertaining to intellectual property (IP), affecting issuesACTA Rises from Internet privacy to access to affordable medications, might need a little “tweaking” to ensure they comply with the specifications of U.S. corporate “advisers.” The USTR’s demands at the TPP negotiations read like a wish list from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and YOU have the opportunity to grant all their wishes.

You see, the condition the U.S. imposed for Mexico to get a seat at this corporate banquet was that Mexico agree to accept everything that the other countries already have negotiated over the past three years. Sure, NAFTA required some nasty changes to your IP laws. Remember the millions your government wasted trying to lift the U.S. patent on common yellow beans that a bio-prospector filed after NAFTA? Well, wait until you get a look at the 21st century NAFTA on steroids!

As a part of the “historic” TPP negotiations, it is time for your laws to truly reflect your new “21st century” status. For instance, you need to expand pharmaceutical patent protection and create new pharmaceutical monopolies in Mexico. You also need to extend copyright protection to device memory buffers and criminalize circumvention of technological protection measures, limiting fair and educational uses of all kinds of literary and artistic content. Overall, you are expected to introduce new, draconian provisions into Mexican law to lengthen, strengthen and broaden IP monopolies in Mexico.

The strict IP enforcement in this scenario may seem very familiar to you. In fact, you fought off a very similar – although less extreme – attack on your privacy and rights on the Internet in 2011 in the form of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Some objections to ACTA expressed by Mexico Senator Carlos Sotelo Garcia in September 2010 included the opaque nature of the ACTA negotiations, stringent IP enforcement measures (championed by the U.S.), and the “erosion” of access to information technology for approximately thirty million Mexican citizens.

A look at any current media coverage of the TPP will reveal a scene that is eerily familiar and equally concerning. Sorry to break the news, but the opacity of the TPP negotiations makes the ACTA process look like a pinnacle of open government. The TPP has been negotiated entirely in secret, with the only glimpse of the text coming from leaks of the IP, investment and other chapters. Furthermore, each of the negotiating nations has agreed to keep all documents besides the finalized text a secret for four years following the conclusion of negotiations, whether it is ever finalized or not. So whereas the same report by Senator Garcia implemented a working group to review the provisions of ACTA, no such legislative oversight would be possible in the TPP. Apparently the only way to get a look at the “21st century agreement” – even for legislators of the countries in the negotiations – is to introduce a resolution demanding they be allowed to see how trade negotiators are rewriting a nation’s laws. In the U.S, the chairman of the Senate committee with official jurisdiction over TPP, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), has done just that. Yup, the chairman of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness and his staff were explicitly refused access to even the U.S. negotiators’ proposal to the TPP negotiations.

The legislature of Mexico has already expressed its opinion of trade agreements that restrict privacy and rights on the Internet. On June 21, 2011, the Mexican Congress passed a resolution that urged that the Federal Executive not become a signatory of ACTA:

The Standing Committee of the H. Congress, respectfully urges the Federal Executive Power to, within the framework of its powers, instruct the ministries and agencies involved in negotiating the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), not to sign the Treaty.

Reading this sort of language coming from the national legislature of a sovereign nation, one might draw the conclusion that ACTA is doomed in that country. But foreign corporate interests have found another foothold in the laws of Mexico – in the form of the TPP. You may have believed that ACTA was dead in Mexico, but, like el chupacabras, it is rising again and this time it is even stronger.

Welcome to the 21st century, dear neighbor.

 

Follow Public Citizen's Global Access to Medicines on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/PCMedsAccess
Read more at our webpage: http://citizen.org/Page.aspx?pid=4955

June 15, 2012

Korea trade deficit balloons under NAFTA-style deal

Last October, President Obama and House Republicans teamed up to pass a NAFTA-style deal with Korea, even though the government's own projections showed it would increase the U.S. trade deficit.

That deal ended up going into effect on March 15 of of this year (despite many Koreans' opposition to the rights given multinationals under the pact, not to mention the opposition of many here at home).

We now have the first full month of data on the deal, and it's not looking good.

The deal, sold as a way to increase job-creating U.S. exports, actually saw job-displacing imports rise much more quickly in its first full month. As Inside U.S. Trade reports,

The U.S. trade deficit in goods with South Korea tripled during the first full month the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement was in force, amid a slight decrease in the overall U.S. goods and services deficit that month, according to April trade data released last week by the Commerce Department. The bilateral FTA went into effect on March 15.

The U.S. goods trade deficit with South Korea grew to $1.8 billion in April, with imports totaling roughly $5.5 billion compared to exports of $3.7 billion. That was a larger bilateral deficit than the $0.6 billion recorded in March, where imports totaled $4.8 billion and exports were $4.2 billion. In April 2011, the U.S. goods deficit with Korea was $1 billion.

On auto trade, the bilateral deficit with South Korea climbed to $1.65 billion in April from $1.45 billion the previous month. While U.S. exports of autos and auto parts stayed the same over both months at roughly $100 million, imports from Korea rose to $1.76 billion in April from $1.56 billion the previous month. The data were released June 8.

While it's difficult to draw too many conclusions from a single month of data, rest assurred that workers concerned about offshoring of jobs and trade displacement are going to be watching these numbers closely for many months and years to come. If the trade deficit (in autos and more generally) continues to climb, it will be very difficult for policymakers to sell more NAFTAs (like the proposed TPP) to an already skeptical public.

May 15, 2012

Implementation of Colombia Trade Deal a New Low for Workers and the Environment

It is oddly fitting that U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk would celebrate today’s implementation of the U.S.-Colombia trade deal at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. After all, even as the U.S. government’s own projections showed that this pact and a similar one with Korea would increase the U.S. trade deficit, both USTR and the Chamber worked overtime to misrepresent this and other likely impacts.
 
At a time when nearly four out of ten Americans are unemployed or simply not participating in the labor force, it is unconscionable to implement a trade deal with Colombia – the unionist murder capital of the world.  At a time when multinational mining and other extractive industries are displacing poor Colombians, it is unthinkable for this pact to privilege these same corporations with special rights to challenge Colombia’s social and environmental mitigation policies in supranational tribunals. The Colombian government’s own pre-pact assessment anticipated the likely consequence of this deal: rural Colombians “would have no more than three options: migration to the cities or to other countries (especially the United States), working in drug cultivation zones, or affiliating with illegal armed groups.''

The failed North American Free Trade Agreement has virtually identical rules as the Colombia pact, and we know how that worked out: increased job insecurity and more corporate attacks on public interest policies outside of national judicial systems. These rules weren’t a good idea when it came to Mexico: they’re even worse when it comes to Colombia.

In October, President Obama set a new low by pushing a controversial U.S.-Colombia trade deal that attracted the highest level of Democratic opposition to a Democratic president’s trade initiative in history. Instead, record high levels of Republican support were marshaled, only because the Tea Party-supported members of Congress flip-flopped on their campaign commitments by voting for a trade deal that undermines American jobs and sovereignty.

If the administration continues the course on the failed trade policies of the Bush-Clinton-Bush years (as it seems to be with the nine-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership), it can expect continued outrage from people across the political spectrum.

April 16, 2012

Statement in Response to Obama’s Implementation of Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA)

Statement of Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global trade Watch:

Given the number of unionists murdered in Colombia has increased every year since the trade deal was signed and the same labor violations that led candidate Obama to oppose the deal remain it is obscene that he has certified that conditions have improved and thus the trade deal is ready to go into effect. Since 1986 nearly 3,000 union activists have been killed in the country, the rate jumped to 48 last year.

Obama’s actions kill any leverage the U.S. had to stop the violence against union organizers and sends the wrong message about the human rights situation in Colombia which makes this so-called “trade deal,” which is really nothing more than special perks for big business that will harm most people in both countries, doubly damaging.

In 2008, candidate Obama made his opposition to the Colombia FTA clear, saying he opposed the deal, “because the violence against unions in Colombia would make a mockery of the very labor protections that we have insisted be included in these kinds of agreements.”  That violence has not stopped. Instead, President Obama has changed his position.

 The politics of Obama’s action with this trade deal are totally inexplicable given this is not just another NAFTA, which polling shows most American despise, but one with the country that is globally notorious for murdering unionists and a deal that was passionately despised by the very union voters on whom Obama will rely to win key swing states and volunteer for the vaunted Obama campaign ground game.

In 2008 candidate Obama also said, “I realize that changing your position to suit the politics of the moment might be smart campaign tactics but isn't the kind of strong, principled leadership America needs right now.” I am sure that after the President’s actions this weekend announcing that the same terrible labor conditions in Colombia are suddenly ok and pushing implementation of another NAFTA-style trade agreement leaves many Americans wishing that President Obama behaved more like candidate Obama.

The agreement allows corporations from anywhere around the world with offices in Colombia and the U.S. to challenge U.S. or Colombian public interest regulations and laws before a secret tribunal of three commercial lawyers to demand the laws are dumped and tax payer dollars are paid in compensation.

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December 23, 2011

Program to Give Access to NAFTA Trucks Violates the Law

TruckPublic Citizen, the Teamsters, and the Sierra Club filed an opening brief earlier this week on our lawsuit to stop the Obama administration's illegal program to allow unsafe Mexico-domiciled trucks to travel throughout the United States. It's the latest development in the story about how NAFTA may force the United States to lower its highway safety standards by permitting Mexico-domiciled trucks on its roads.

NAFTA included a requirement that all three countries’ highways be fully accessible to trucking companies based in any NAFTA nation by 2000, an item pushed by large U.S. trucking firms seeking deregulation and lower wages. However, the Department of Transportation studies have found that Mexico-domiciled trucks have much worse safety records than U.S. trucks, so public opposition has stymied attempts to open all U.S. highways to these trucks. In 2007, Congress put strict conditions on any pilot program that would evaluate the performance of Mexico-domiciled trucks on U.S. highways.

The Obama administration chose to ignore some of Congress’s conditions when it initiated a pilot program this October. Under the program, Mexico-domiciled trucks entering the United States do not need to show that they are built to U.S. safety standards, nor do drivers of these trucks need to meet all physical standards required of U.S. drivers. Furthermore, the administration did not follow proper procedures when conducting an environmental impact assessment. The program does not even serve its stated purpose of evaluating the ability of Mexico-domiciled trucks to operate safely in the United States, since there is no plan to collect a statistically valid sample of program participants. Finally, Congress insisted that any pilot program achieve comparable access for U.S. trucks in Mexico, but due to the limited availability of certain fuels, the program does not guarantee reciprocal access to Mexico for U.S. trucks.

For more background on NAFTA trucks, visit our landing page on the issue.

(Image courtesy of the Missouri Department of Transportation)

November 30, 2011

Now They Tell Us: Korea FTA Auto Tweaks Were Useless

In the run-up to the congressional vote on the Korea FTA, the Obama administration claimed that its small tweaks to the Korea FTA's auto provisions would lead to greater exports of U.S. autos to Korea. The relaxation of Korean environmental and safety standards for imported U.S. vehicles was supposed to soften the blow of the clobbering that U.S. automakers would suffer when U.S. tariffs on Korea vehicles were lifted under the FTA. Trusting this claim, Congress passed the Korea FTA last month. Now Bloomberg is reporting that the tweaked auto provisions were all for naught:

When Back Seung Chul bought a new car in Seoul, he didn’t even look at imported models from General Motors Co. (GM), Chrysler Group LLC and Ford Motor Co....

Back’s decision -- he bought a Sportage R sports utility vehicle from Hyundai (005380) affiliate Kia Motors Corp. -- suggests that a new U.S.-Korea trade deal won’t mean a leap in sales in the Asian country for U.S. automakers, which accounted for just 1.1 percent of the market last year. The agreement, likely to take effect Jan. 1 after it was signed by President Lee Myung Bak in Seoul today, calls for the phasing out of South Korea tariffs on U.S. vehicles.

“It is highly unlikely American cars will do well in the Korean auto market,” said Kang Sang Min, a Hanwha Securities Co. analyst in Seoul. “Local automakers like Hyundai and Kia can make good cars and offer quick, convenient service.”

The article also discusses the widespread preference for fuel-efficient vehicles in Korea, since Koreans must buy gasoline at double the price of U.S. consumers. Somewhat ironically, the Obama administration's efforts to have Korea relax its fuel efficiency standards for imported U.S. vehicles will only solidify the negative perceptions of U.S. vehicles in Korea.

In sum, Koreans' preference for domestic vehicles over U.S. vehicles - not safety regulations - is the reason that sales of U.S. vehicles have lagged. We warned about this in our comments to the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) about the methodology that they would use to predict the impact of the FTA upon the U.S. auto sector. Even though the USITC did not adopt the modifications to their methodology that we recommended, its report still predicted that the annual U.S. auto trade deficit would rise by hundreds of millions of dollars under the Korea FTA. Although Bloomberg's reporting on this issue can be viewed as better late than never, it is certainly too late for the thousands of U.S. auto workers who will likely lose their jobs from the Korea FTA.

October 12, 2011

Job-Killing Trade Deals Pass Congress Amidst Record Democratic Opposition

Obama and Tea Party Flip Flop on Fair Trade Campaign Commitments

Statement of Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch

With nine percent unemployment and Americans desperate for job creation, it is unconscionable that President Obama and House Republicans would push through a trio of NAFTA-style job-killing trade agreements that even the government’s own studies show will increase the U.S. trade deficit.

This represents a complete flip-flop for President Obama, who won crucial swing states by pledging to overhaul our flawed trade policies. So it is no surprise that a sizeable majority of Democrats in Congress voted against these agreements, against Obama and for American jobs.

Today a larger share of House Democrats voted against a Democratic president on trade than ever before. It took Bill Clinton nearly eight years of NAFTA job losses, sell outs and scandals to have nearly two-thirds of the House Democrats vote against him on trade.

Given the strong Democratic opposition, ultimately it was the Tea Party GOP freshmen who passed these job-killing deals despite their campaign commitments at home to stand up for Main Street businesses, against more job offshoring and for Buy American requirements. The three pacts explicitly ban Buy America procurement policies. The Korea FTA is projected to increase the trade deficit, with seven U.S. industrial sectors hardest hit and job losses of 159,000 in its first seven years.

Members of Congress that voted for these job-killing agreements – backed by Wall Street and America’s most notorious job-offshoring corporations and harmful to American workers, small business and consumers – will face a reckoning as the damage of these pacts hits home. We promise to closely track and publicize every development.

Everyone is asking what the Obama administration could have been thinking to push the sorts of NAFTA-style trade deals that polls show majorities of Democrats, Independents and even GOP voters oppose as job killers, especially after the lesson of the 1993 NAFTA vote, when a Democratic president’s blurring of the distinctions between the parties on trade and jobs caused a disgruntled base to stay home. 

Every election cycle, more Democrats and GOP are campaigning against these sorts of NAFTA-style trade pacts. Given this and the high unemployment rate, it will be very rough for those officials who then betrayed folks at home and voted for these deals loved only by Wall Street and job-offshoring corporations.

Record of Congressional Democratic Opposition to Democratic Presidents on Trade Pacts

- 82.3% of House Democrats opposed the Colombia FTA (158 Democrats against, 31 for)

- 67.7% of House Democrats opposed the Korea FTA  (130 Democrats against, 59 for)

- 64.1% of House Democrats opposed the Panama FTA (123 Democrats against, 66 for)

- 60.6% of Democrats opposed NAFTA (1993)

- 35% opposed the WTO (1994)

- 65.56% opposed China PNTR (2000)

 

Record of Congressional Democratic Opposition to GOP Presidents on Trade Pacts

- 62.6% opposed the Chile FTA (2003)

- 62.14% opposed the Singapore FTA (2003)

- 41.3% opposed the Australia FTA (2004)

- 39.32% opposed the Morocco FTA (2004)

- 92.6% opposed the Central America Free Trade Agreement (2005)

- 40.4% opposed the Bahrain FTA (2005)

- 87.6% opposed the Oman FTA (2006)

- slightly more than half opposed the Peru FTA (2007)

October 11, 2011

Trade disaster: Congress votes tomorrow

A message from Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch

You don't hear from me often. Over the past year, I have spend most of my time on Capitol Hill, meeting with members of Congress, educating them about our current flawed trade policy and how we can create a trade model that works.

I have been working to get a majority on Congress to say NO to the three devastating NAFTA-style trade deals signed by Pres. Bush that now Pres. Obama is trying to ram through Congress.

But today, I urgently need a favor from you. It will take about five minutes. Congress will vote on these job-killing, unsafe-import-flooding deals on Wednesday. I need you to pick up the phone and call 1-800-718-1008 right now to stop the three unfair trade deals with Korea, Colombia, and Panama.

Take 5 minutes to save jobs. Dial 1-800-718-1008 and tell your Representative to vote NO on all three flawed trade deals.

Here’s why:

  • The Korea trade deal is the largest offshoring deal of its kind since NAFTA. If approved, the deal will displace 159,000 American jobs in the first seven years. Even the official U.S. government study on the Korea pact says that it would increase our trade deficit, and it hits the "jobs of the future” sectors hardest – solar, high speed trains, computers. [Learn more]
  • We should have never even discussed a new trade deal with Colombia, the world capital for violence against workers. More unionists are assassinated every year than in the rest of the world combined. In 2010, 51 trade unionists were assassinated. Do you think we would consider a trade deal with a county where 51 CEOS were murdered? So far in 2011, another 22 have been killed, despite Colombia’s heralded new "Labor Action Plan.” [Learn more]
  • The Panama agreement has many of the same problems as the other two deals -- undercutting the reregulation of the big banks and speculators who destroyed our economy and empowering foreign investors to attack U.S. health, safety, labor and environmental laws before foreign tribunals. But, Panama is also one of the world’s largest tax havens. There, rich U.S. individuals and over 400,000 corporations take advantage of the offshore financial center, many dodging paying the taxes our communities desperately need. This FTA would undercut our current tools to fight tax dodging and money laundering. [Learn more]

Stop the trade deals that replicate the failed policies of the past. Call your Representative today.

Behind the scenes and throughout the country, our team has done everything we can do to try and get through to the leaders in Congress to stop these trade agreements. But it looks like many of our leaders in Washington—both Democrats and Republicans—are siding with corporate lobbyists instead of learning from the experience of working Americans.

YOU know the reality of these trade deals better than corporate lobbyists—and Congress needs to listen to you.

Please call 1-800-718-1008 right now.

Speak out with millions of Americans against the job-killing trade deals that only reward fat cats, off-shore our jobs and undermine our environmental and financial stability safeguards.

September 09, 2011

At least 18,600 jobs offshored by corporations signing pass-the-FTAs ad

As part of the corporate ad campaign to push congressional passage of the NAFTA-style trade deals with Korea, Colombia, and Panama, the heads of 32 corporations placed an "open letter" in yesterday's National Journal Daily (subscription only). Thing is, many of these very corporations are certified by the U.S. government as having offshored thousands of jobs under past U.S. trade agreements. That's right, the advertisement claiming that these Bush-era FTAs are needed to create U.S. jobs is sponsored by many chronic trade-agreement offshorers of, um, U.S. jobs.

Moreover, while these CEOs claimed that these deals would create U.S. jobs, the government’s own official studies predict an increase in the U.S. trade deficit from the deals. And, an independent economist projected the net loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs from the pacts. The historical record of similar trade agreements is that the United States has slower export growth to countries we have NAFTA-style deals with than with other countries.

In reality, it's likely that these corporations are licking their chops waiting for the offshoring opportunities that will come with another batch of unfair trade deals. Thanks to the Department of Labor's Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) data on workers laid off due to imports and offshoring, we can see how these corporations have taken advantage of past unfair trade deals to ship jobs overseas. (And, given it provides a list of corporate offshorers, we can also see why the Republicans in Congress are keen to kill off this program that provides training and extended unemployment benefits to workers whose are certified as casualties of trade pacts, offshoring, and rising imports.)

We have a searchable form of the TAA database on our website. There you can see that some of these 32 corporations have shipped a combined 18,600 American jobs overseas since 2001. Consider that an example rather than a full accounting of the damage, as TAA is a narrow program that excludes many workers who may well have lost their jobs to trade pacts and imports but who do not meet the program's criteria. If a broader range of trade-related job loss is utilized, the Department of Labor reports over 35,000 workers who have lost their jobs at these companies due to trade since 2001.

Just to pick out a few examples, Whirlpool took advantage of NAFTA and shipped over 1,000 jobs at their Fort Smith, Arkansas facility to Mexico in 2008. Caterpillar, a major backer of the proposed trade pact with Colombia, laid off 338 workers at its Mapleton, Illinois facility when it shifted their work to Mexico. And it looks like Texas Instruments was getting a head-start on the offshoring possibilities offered by the Korea trade deal when it shipped 149 jobs at its Attleboro, Massachusetts facility to South Korea, Mexico, and China in 2005. It just so happens that electronics is going to be the hardest-hit sector in terms of the ballooning deficit from the Korea pact, so the remaining Texas Instruments workers in the United States should be wary.

This ad came the day of Obama's big jobs speech, and it turned out that he slipped in one definitely anti-jobs pitch, advocating for the passage of the Korea, Colombia, and Panama pacts. (Although this time, unlike in the State of the Union address, he did not make the dubious "70,000 jobs supported" claim.) If this isn't bad enough, Larry Summers, Obama's former director National Economic Council, last month argued that "We should not oppose offshoring or outsourcing."

After the jump is a list of the incidents of offshoring at the corporations that signed the letter pushing the three trade pacts:

(UPDATED 9/12/11)

Continue reading "At least 18,600 jobs offshored by corporations signing pass-the-FTAs ad" »

August 22, 2011

U.S. Trade Representative's New Jobs Strategy

Last week, amid mounting signs that the job market may be deteriorating further, Tim Robertson, Director of the California Fair Trade Coalition, interviewed U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk about the implications of the Korea, Colombia, and Panama trade deals. In the course of the interview, Kirk seemed to suggest that the Obama administration's trade policy encouraged shrinking the number of jobs in the United States. According to Kirk, our massive trade deficit is inconsequential since the imports constitute goods that "we don't want to make in America." He explains:

Let's increase our competitiveness... the reality is about half of our imports, our trade deficit is because of how much oil [we import], so you take that out of the equation, you look at what percentage of it are things that frankly, we don't want to make in America, you know, cheaper products, low-skill jobs that frankly college kids that are graduating from, you know, UC Cal and Hastings [don't want], but what we do want is to capture those next generation jobs and build on our investments in our young people, our education infrastructure. Our advanced services like [at the architecture firm where we met], there's no reason in the world ... why would we not want to capture the economic benefit of that here in America? I mean, I would argue that that is exactly the reason that we're doing it.

With the unemployment rate at nine percent, it's hard to fathom a government official saying that the United States should pass up jobs, even if those jobs don't require a degree. Shoes are arguably some of the "cheaper products" that Kirk references. The Washington Post recently ran a piece about New Balance's shoe plant in Maine where the workers are glad to be keeping their jobs, contrary to Kirk's assertion that we don't want to make them anymore:

“We want to fight really hard to keep this business in Maine,” said Lori Cook, 28, a single mom with two kids. “I’d like to keep my job.”

The Korea trade deal, projected to result in the loss of 159,000 U.S. jobs, will not just displace workers in the apparel industry, however. The Korea FTA will increase the U.S. deficit in cutting-edge industries, including electronics and motor vehicles, costing us even the "next generation" jobs that Kirk extolls. The Korea, Colombia, and Panama trade deals clearly endanger President Obama's job creation agenda, and USTR Ron Kirk should go back to the drawing board to formulate a trade policy that creates jobs instead of one that eliminates them.

August 03, 2011

Op-Ed Round-Up

Here's a round-up of some of the best opinion pieces over the last couple of months about the pending trade deals:

 

The Hill masthead

U.S.-Korea trade deal is bad for both countries

By Chun Jung-bae, National Assembly of the Republic of Korea

"There is some rosy fantasy that the pending U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement will create tens of thousands of well-paying jobs in both countries and strengthen and expand the U.S. relationship with Korea. This is a fabrication of multinational corporations that have no allegiance to either country. As a member of the Korean National Assembly, I would like to set the record straight: In reality, the deal is lose-lose."

Read the entire piece here.

 

Seattle_times_logo 

Congress should reject proposed trade agreements and insist on better policies

By Lynne Dodson, secretary-treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, and Kathleen Ridihalgh, senior organizing manager of the Sierra Club in Washington and Oregon.

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. This summer, insanity reigns over proposed U.S. trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. For more than 20 years, "free" trade agreements have systematically undermined the American economy and the middle class. The growing disparity between the "haves" and "have nots" is turning the American dream into a nightmare. It is a direct result of our failed trade policy, and it needs to stop now."

Read the entire piece here.

 

SacBeeLogo

US-Colombia free trade agreement bad idea for both countries

By John I. Laun and Cecilia Zarate-Laun, Colombia Support Network

"In the coming days, the U.S. Congress will be debating a free trade deal between the United States and Colombia. The agreement, if finalized, will have a negative impact on both countries. It will not lead to job creation in the United States. Instead, it will cost U.S. jobs, as multinationals will relocate to Colombia in order to avoid paying higher wages here. But Colombia will not benefit, either."

Read the entire piece here.

 

HuffPo logo

Trading Our Future: Tax Cheating and the Panama Free Trade Agreement

By Dylan Ratigan, host of MSNBC's "The Dylan Ratigan Show"

"If you want to know why politicians are so eager to pass a free trade agreement with Panama this month, type "Panama offshore banks" into Google and look at the paid ads. What you'll see is advertising by law firms and banks that will offer you help to set up a secret corporate structure in Panama immune from taxes."

Read the entire piece here.

 

Knoxville-news

Free Trade Pacts Will Cost Tennesseans Jobs

By Robert E. Scott, director of trade and manufacturing policy research at the Economic Policy Institute

"Based on past U.S. experience with NAFTA and other trade agreements, I have estimated that the U.S.-Korea and Colombia FTAs will displace 214,000 U.S. jobs. These job losses will fall hardest in industrial states like Tennessee. Workers there would be well-advised to think twice before supporting these job-displacing trade agreements."

Read the entire piece here.

  

MilwaukeeJS logo So-called 'free' trade agreements harm American workers

By Steve Kagen, doctor and former member of Congress from Appleton, Wis.

"Professional politicians in Washington and their partners on Wall Street are lining up for another payday - this time by promoting 'free trade' deals with Korea, Panama and Colombia. But if you're not in Washington or on Wall Street, there's a problem. These new deals are just like the old deals. They are job-killers - just like NAFTA and CAFTA before them."

Read the entire piece here.

 

Bangor_Daily_News_Logo 
 
Say no to new trade deals and start over

Editorial

"If so-called free trade is not done right...the only winners are corporations without borders. The losers are the people who live and work in those developing nations and the American blue-collar workers who see jobs leave the States. ... There is a good reason that both Maine tea party groups and organized labor oppose the South Korea, Panama and Colombia trade agreements. After defeating them, Congress must create a better way to promote global trade."

Read the entire piece here.

 

Detnews_logo

Open borders, trade deals are ruinous for America

By James P. Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters

"Three more job-killing trade deals are in the hopper, and you can bet the news media will swallow whole the phony claims made about them by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other groups. Congress is now considering trade agreements with Colombia, where trade unionists are routinely murdered; Panama, a well-known tax haven; and South Korea, in the biggest trade deal since NAFTA. It seems our trade policy is of the corporation, by the corporation and for the corporation."

Read the entire piece here.

 

Boston_globe

Trade deals are no deal for US

By Steven J. D'Amico, former Mass. state Representative and member of the American Jobs Alliance

"Even after losing 682,000 jobs to NAFTA since it took effect in 1994, and 2.4 million to China since it joined the World Trade Organization, Washington continues in its blind faith that somehow these trade deals are good for us. This summer Congress is expected to take up three new trade deals - with Korea, Panama, and Colombia. These trade pacts are bad for American workers, bad for our domestic economy, and bad for democracy."

Read the entire piece here.

 

Columbus Dispatch 
Free-trade deals would be costly to U.S.

By Tom Burga, president of the Ohio AFL-CIO

"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."

Read the entire piece here.

 

Redding Record Searchlight Trade pacts bad for California agriculture

By Curtis W. Ellis, executive director of the American Jobs Alliance, and Joaquin Contente, president of California Farmers Union 

"Pending free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama are bad for California farmers and must be rejected if we are to preserve our way of life. All three trade treaties are based on North American Free Trade Agreement-style policies that have displaced American farmers while sending jobs that support California's rural communities offshore. In fact our leading export is jobs and we reward companies that outsource jobs. Since NAFTA took effect, the United States has lost 300,000 farms and millions of jobs."

Read the entire piece here.

 

WisStateJrnl 
Wisconsin Farmers Union opposes free trade pact with Korea

By Darin Von Rudin, president of Wisconsin Farmers Union

"WFU strongly opposes the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and urges Congress to do the same. We feel our legislative leaders should be protecting and promoting American jobs, family farms and our rural communities through sound economic, environmental and labor policies. We don’t think this trade agreement adequately promotes these values."

Read the entire piece here.

 

Statesman_Journal_logo 
Rep. Schrader is confused on international trade

By Steve Hughes, state director of the Oregon Working Families Party,Ray Kenny, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local, and Frank Rouse, president of the Machinists Union Local 1005

"Congressman Kurt Schrader seems to be confused. On the one hand, he says he opposes trade deals that extend greater rights to foreign investors than exist for Oregonians doing business in our state. On the other hand, he is supporting a massive new free trade agreement with South Korea that does just that."

Read the entire piece here.

 

Minneapolis Star-Tribune logo 
Free trade agreements jolt the economy, but not in a good way

By Jessica Lettween, director of the Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition

"It's easy to understand why multinationals adore the Korea agreement. But with around 7 percent unemployment in Minnesota, a budget crisis, and an electorate that is strongly opposed to more NAFTA-style trade agreements, it is baffling why any member of Congress would endorse a deal that will cost us so much."

Read the entire piece here.

 

The Hill masthead

Choose voters over donors on free trade

By Gordon Lafer, professor at the University of Oregon, former senior adviser to the U.S. House’s Labor Committee

"Like Republicans, the White House is eager to get these treaties done quickly, so that voters will have forgotten by the fall of 2012. To see the Obama administration and Republican leadership quietly collaborating to seal this deal in knowing violation of the voters’ will is among the most telling signs of corporate power in Washington, and among the most depressing stories in these tough times."

Read the entire piece here.

 

Winona Daily News

Obama's trade policy clearly shortsighted

By Karen Hansen-Kuhn, international program director for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

"More than two years into the Obama administration, we're still waiting for a 21st-century trade policy."

Read the entire piece here.

 

(Disclosure: Public Citizen has no preference among the candidates for public office.)

 

July 19, 2011

Dylan Ratigan on Tax Cheating and the Unfair Panama Trade Deal

Check out this HuffPo piece about the Panama trade deal from MSNBC's own Dylan Ratigan:Ratigan

"If you want to know why politicians are so eager to pass a free trade agreement with Panama this month, type "Panama offshore banks" into Google and look at the paid ads. What you'll see is advertising by law firms and banks that will offer you help to set up a secret corporate structure in Panama immune from taxes.

The State Department knows this. Here's how the State Department described the Panamanian economy in 2006 in a secret memo revealed on Wikileaks.

The Panamanian "incorporation regime ensures secrecy, avoids taxes,and shields assets from the enforcement of legal judgments. Along with its sophisticated banking services, Panama remains an environment conducive to laundering the proceeds from criminal activity and creates a vulnerability to terrorist financing."

Read the whole article.

July 11, 2011

White House Rocked by Protests Against Unfair Colombia Trade Deal

Colombia FTA Protest July 11 2011 WH Coffins Signs

Today, hundreds of activists gathered at the White House for a demonstration against the U.S.-Colombia FTA. These representatives of faith, labor, human rights and consumer organizations called for the Obama administration to drop its push to pass the Bush-signed trade pact. Fifty one coffins were laid in front of the White House to symbolize the murders of that number of Colombian unionists last year. Five activists were arrested as an act of civil disobedience, including Rick Chase, Executive Director of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship.

Click here for more pictures.

Read the press advisory after the break.

Continue reading "White House Rocked by Protests Against Unfair Colombia Trade Deal" »

June 20, 2011

Comparing apples to bloody oranges

Corporate interests have been going into overdrive pushing the flawed NAFTA-style deals with Colombia, Panama and Korea. As we've documented before, a lot of the statistics that they bandy about as support for their position are misleading, incomplete, or makes apples-to-oranges comparisons.

It's one thing when these statistics have to do with economic accounting abstractions like export values: the argument could be wrong, but it doesn't hit you on an emotional level.

Not so with the latest deeply offensive talking point from the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute, now being cited by Gary Shapiro of the Consumer Electronics Association, who writes:

The battle over free trade has taken a crass -- and dishonest -- turn thanks to an ad campaign run by the AFL-CIO which suggests a free trade agreement between the United States and Colombia is "about murder" of Colombian labor organizers. The ad, which features a coffin, applauds the "brave union leaders" of Colombia who are lobbying Congress to reject the proposed agreement. The AFL-CIO claims that to approve the FTA would be to condone the murders of union leaders in Colombia.

What's the ads don't mention is that the Colombian union leaders visiting Washington this week are in more danger here than in their home country. In fact, according to statistics cited by the Heritage Foundation, the murder rate in Washington is 33.4 per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to the 5.3 for Colombian unionists.

I can't remember the last time I read anything so callous or tone deaf. The reason that labor, faith and human rights groups have highlighted the Colombian unionist assasination numbers is because many if not all of these murders in Colombia occur because of the unionists' activities.

The D.C. murder rate is heartbreaking. But how many of these murders occur because someone is attempting to exercise their union rights? Zero. That's the relevant comparison.

Murder rates in D.C. - as across most of the U.S. - are driven largely by economic factors and include the failed war on drugs (and the competition between private individuals over drug turf.)

Unionist murders in Colombia are, by contrast, political, and are often carried out with state complicity.

Two closing thoughts.

First, the plan that the Obama administration is pushing does not require an end to these murders before the pact go into place. That is a tragedy and missed opportunity.

Second, much as employment and competition in the illegal drug sector drive DC's murder rate, the Colombian government's own studies predict an exacerbation of such problems in Colombia if the FTA is implemented. Given the rural displacement and further impoverishment the Colombia FTA is projected to cause, the Colombian Ministry of Agriculture concluded that the FTA would give small farmers little choice but “migration to the cities or other countries (especially the United States), working in drug cultivation zones, or affiliating with illegal armed groups.”

In sum, while the Colombia FTA does not require Colombia's unionist murder rate to come down to the zero rate of Washington, D.C., it may in fact drive Colombia's overall (non-unionist) murder rate up to Washington, D.C. levels.

June 15, 2011

Chamber of Commerce's Misleading Data Website Gives Only Half the Story

Today the Chamber of Commerce launched a website that purports to show the effects of U.S. trade upon jobs in each congressional district, as part of its lobbying campaign to pass the Korea, Colombia, and Panama Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).  Even a cursory review shows that the data included to represent “effects of trade” is only gross exports – imports are excluded, as are net figures that show the actual impact of trade on the districts. 

Indeed, the Chamber’s “new” website just repackages the previously-released old exports-only data featured in past Chamber “studies” of the FTAs. It’s the same misleading approach - like only counting deposits into ones bank account, not also withdrawals or the ending balance.

And, this is especially deceptive because it operates to cover up the huge U.S. trade deficit, which has been driven to astronomical levels by the very same NAFTA-style trade pacts supported by the Chamber of Commerce and the American jobs lost from years of large annual trade deficits.

When economists study the jobs impact of  trade pacts, they consider both sides of the ledger by estimating the number of jobs supported by exports as well as the number of jobs displaced by imports. As Nobelist Paul Krugman noted: " If you want a trade policy that helps employment, it has to be a policy that induces other countries to run bigger deficits or smaller surpluses. A countervailing duty on Chinese exports would be job-creating; a deal with South Korea, not…"

Studies that review both imports and exports explain why broad majorities of Americans are against the types of trade pacts the Chamber continues to promote. For instance, the Economic Policy Institute found that 5.6 million more jobs were displaced by imports than were supported by exports in 2007. Looking into the future, the Economic Policy Institute has estimated that implementation of the Korea and Colombia FTAs alone will lead to a net loss of 214,000 U.S. jobs due to rising trade deficits.

Exports support jobs, but the NAFTA-style trade pacts touted by the Chamber will lead to greater imports than exports, displacing workers in the United States. Says who? Well, among others, the Korea FTA’s lead negotiator Ambassador Karan Bhatia who was Pesident George W. Bush’s deputy U.S. trade representative. In an October 2006 speech to a Korean audience, Bhatia said that it was a “myth” that “the U.S. will get the bulk of the benefits of the FTA.” He went on to say, “If history is any judge, it may well not turn out to be true that the U.S. will get the bulk of the benefits, if measured by increased exports.” He added that, in the instance of Mexico and other countries, “the history of our FTAs is that bilateral trade surpluses of our trading partners go up,” meaning that the U.S. trade deficit with those countries increased. 

Even on its own terms, the Chamber website’s estimates of the number of jobs supported by exports in each congressional district are often double counted and misleading. According to the website’s own methodological summary, if any part of a county intersects with a congressional district, all of that county's exports and extrapolated “jobs-supported” are added to that  district's total. This leads to a huge degree of double-counting, since exports from a single county are often assigned to multiple congressional districts. In Texas alone, the sum of the number of jobs supported by exports in each congressional district is 250 percent greater than the state total given by the Chamber, meaning that the jobs estimate for the average Texas congressional district is inflated by 250 percent. Thus, users of the website are misled when they think they are accessing the number of jobs supported by exports in their congressional districts.

Public Citizen has estimated the number of jobs in each congressional district in sectors that will be hit particularly hard by the Korea FTA. A searchable database of these estimates is available at:
http://www.citizen.org/korea_fta_jobs_at_risk

May 25, 2011

Trade Looms Large in NY Special Election

(Disclaimer: Public Citizen has no preference among candidates for office)

Yesterday Democrat Kathy Hochul pulled off an upset win against Republican Jane Corwin in the special election for New York's 26th District, wresting control of a seat the GOP has occupied since the 1960's. Much attention has focused on the candidates' positions on Medicare as a deciding factor in the race, but trade policy also played a key role in the election.

Jack Davis, independent candidate and president of a local manufacturing company, turned the spotlight on the devastating consequences of unfair trade policies for American manufacturing workers. His focus on offshoring garnered nine percent of the votes in the special election.

Earlier in the race, Davis was polling at 23 percent, a testament to the power of trade as an election issue.  Eager to be on the right side of the trade issue, Kathy Hochul released a strongly-worded statement condemning NAFTA and opposing the Korea, Panama, and Colombia FTAs.

For her part, Corwin ran an ad claiming that she would "oppose trade agreements that just aren’t fair", but never followed through in naming a specific pact that she would oppose. When asked point-blank in a questionnaire if she supported NAFTA and the Korea, Panama, and Colombia FTAs, she refused to take a position.  The tension between Corwin's vague fair trade statements and her reluctance to oppose specific policies came to a head when Hochul and Corwin addressed Davis' absence from the May 12th debate:


Oddly, Hochul and Corwin both ended up noting Davis’ absence from the debate not to needle him, but each other.

Hochul started it, saying she wished Davis had participated because “he brings a lot to the debate,” and on his behalf demanded Corwin state her view of the North American Free Trade Agreement and unfair trade. That’s been Davis’ signature issue in all four of his congressional campaigns.

Corwin’s answer: “Right back at’cha, Kathy. There are a lot of things that Jack could ask Kathy Hochul. I think we need to get clarification on her plan for Medicare. She talks about holding the line on taxes. How do you hold the line on taxes when you’re advocating ... to raise taxes?”


That exchange sharply contrasted the difference between Hochul's commitment to oppose specific trade agreements and Corwin's broad statements on fair trade. A large number of the new GOP House freshmen campaigned on supporting fair trade. With Hochul's solid win over Corwin, they're on notice that they will have to put their money where their mouths are on the upcoming votes on the Korea, Panama, and Colombia FTAs or face voter anger in November 2012.

May 24, 2011

Scott Walker's NAFTA trade package

President Obama came under fire from progressives earlier this year who felt he did not do enough to support the working families in Wisconsin and throughout the Midwest who have been fighting to preserve their collective bargaining rights from attacks by anti-worker governors like Scott Walker.

Now, the administration has gone a step further and is touting Scott Walker's support for a package of three NAFTA-style trade deals that are projected to offshore American jobs. The letter also calls for reinstatement of Fast Track, the undemocratic mechanism invented by Richard Nixon to ram trade deals through Congress that expired in 2007 and that Obama campaigned against as a candidate.

Most governors did not sign onto this latest NAFTA push. But  Scott+Walker+Presidents+Obama+Travels+Wisconsin+D0lRNSKUp6Jl major anti-union Republican governors including Walker and Indiana's Mitch Daniels are on the letter. (See whether your governor signed on or not after the jump.)

It's one thing to backtrack on the fair-trade campaign commitments you made to your political base, adopt Bush's trade policies as your own, and refuse to go out of your way to fully support your political base in state level politics. It's quite another to actively partner with governors that want to destroy your political base on an agenda the American people despise.

Click here to take action and urge your member of Congress to vote down Scott Walker's NAFTA trade package.

See the full list of signatories after the jump.

Continue reading "Scott Walker's NAFTA trade package" »

April 14, 2011

Australia government's new investment rules: offshore no more

Australia's government broke new ground with its recent commitment to move away from the controversial investor-state system. In the Julia Gillard government's trade policy statement, it wrote:

Some countries have sought to insert investor-state dispute resolution clauses into trade agreements. Typically these clauses empower businesses from one country to take international legal action against the government of another country for alleged breaches of the agreement, such as for policies that allegedly discriminate against those businesses and in favour of the country’s domestic businesses.

The Gillard Government supports the principle of national treatment – that foreign and domestic businesses are treated equally under the law. However, the Government does not support provisions that would confer greater legal rights on foreign businesses than those available to domestic businesses. Nor will the Government support provisions that would constrain the ability of Australian governments to make laws on social, environmental and economic matters in circumstances where those laws do not discriminate between domestic and foreign businesses. The Government has not and will not accept provisions that limit its capacity to put health warnings or plain packaging requirements on tobacco products or its ability to continue the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

In the past, Australian Governments have sought the inclusion of investor-state dispute resolution procedures in trade agreements with developing countries at the behest of Australian businesses. The Gillard Government will discontinue this practice. If Australian businesses are concerned about sovereign risk in Australian trading partner countries, they will need to make their own assessments about whether they want to commit to investing in those countries. [emphasis added]

The last point is fantastic: why should any government be in the business of facilitating offshore investment? That's what insurance markets are for.

Now, the government just has to stick to its guns in the Trans-Pacific FTA talks.

April 07, 2011

Obama’s Korea Trade Deal Undermines Future of U.S. Auto Industry, Finds Government Report

The newly released study by the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) on the South Korea Free Trade Agreement’s (FTA) supplemental auto deal found that the already hard-hit U.S. auto industry is in for more pain under the Obama administration’s FTA with South Korea. The study was requested following a December 2010 “supplemental deal” that exempted some U.S. autos from having to meet stringent Korean auto safety and environmental standards.

The latest study confirms that, even with the supplemental agreement, very few U.S. autos will be sold in Korea, and a huge increase in Korean auto imports into the U.S. is predicted.

Moreover, the new study did not alter the previous findings that the bilateral and global balance in autos will worsen under this agreement, nor that the U.S. will see an increase in its overall global trade deficit.

The USITC’s newest findings were not unexpected, because in undertaking their congressionally mandated studies of each trade pact, the agency assumes an agreement is fully implemented and tariff reductions are already phased in. The December supplemental deal did not change the ultimate tariff phase outs, only the timelines over which tariffs go to zero. The USITC’s initial 2007 study on the Korea FTA found that the U.S. auto deficit would increase by $531-708 million as a result of the pact.

The House GOP leadership didn’t like that finding, so they requested a new one that incorporated the changes made to the pact in 2010.

In the new study, the USITC noted that slightly improved numbers on U.S. net exports to Korea “stem from changes to the economic environment (e.g., the recent economic downturn) and declines in trade flows in 2009.”

Bizarrely, House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) celebrated the new study, touting an estimate that the supplemental deal will increase U.S. auto exports by $48-66 million to Korea. But Chairman Camp fails to note that his new study does not change the initial troubling finding that U.S. imports from Korea will also increase $907 million.
 
The findings of the new USITC study, though already bad news for U.S. autoworkers, are also likely to be underestimating the actual damage and inflating the prospective benefits of the FTA and supplemental agreement, for several reasons:

  • The USITC refused to incorporate into its modeling more realistic assumptions about Korean consumer preferences, which are overwhelmingly biased in favor of domestically made goods.
  • The USITC also did not incorporate into its model the fact that “South Korean” autos can be made with up to 65 percent Chinese or North Korean content, and still receive the privileges of the deal.
  • The USITC did not address the concern that members of Congress, industry and unions had that the “transplant” Korean companies now producing in the U.S. South might reduce their employment there, as tariffs are phased out and it becomes easier to simply ship Korean-made cars to the United States.
  • The USITC also does not attempt to model the specific non-tariff barriers that Korea promised to remove in the December negotiations, for instance exemptions from safety standards for U.S. automakers that sell below 25,000 cars a year in the Korean market and the exemptions from environmental standards from the years 2012 to 2015. The agency simply assumes that all non-tariff barriers are removed. (The USITC’s model assumes that any difference between the price of U.S. autos in the world market and the price of U.S. autos in the Korean market are attributable to a black box that is deemed one big “non-tariff barrier.” That price differential is simply assumed to disappear.)

Given Koreans are already disinclined to buy foreign cars, a high profile exemption of U.S. cars from having to meet Korea’s strong safety and environmental standards will only exacerbate Korean consumers’ notions that imports are inferior.

President Barack Obama campaigned and won on overhauling our unfair trade policies. Instead, what Americans face with the Korea FTA is the same Bush NAFTA-style agreement, with slightly altered auto tariff schedules. The Korea trade deal is still projected to increase the overall U.S. trade deficit and cost 159,000 U.S. jobs. The Korea deal requires the kind of financial deregulation that contributed to the economic crisis. The FTA’s labor chapter still contains Bush’s ban on reference to the International Labor Organization conventions when enforcing its weak labor standards. This agreement even allows South Korean goods to be given the benefits of the agreement even if such goods contain inputs or parts from North Korea, despite our sanctions on trade with that country. And it still has sovereignty-eroding, public-interest-policy-chilling rules that allow multinational corporations to sue governments in private, foreign tribunals for taxpayer money. There are nearly $9.1 billion in claims in the 14 so-called investor-state cases outstanding under NAFTA-style deals. None of them relate to traditional trade concerns; all of them relate to environmental, public health and transportation policy.

Obama’s Colombia-Korea NAFTA Expansion Is Damaging, Heartbreaking, Infuriating and Disgusting

Statement of Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch

The “action plan” being sold as a means to improve Colombia’s horrific labor rights conditions is in fact a remarkably cynical maneuver to facilitate passage of yet another leftover NAFTA-style Free Trade Agreement (FTA) developed by former President George W. Bush that many in the Congress and American public oppose.

With today’s move, President Barack Obama takes ownership of a Colombia-Korea trade agreement package that poses enormous policy and political peril.

Passing the Korea deal would kill U.S. jobs; even official government studies show it will increase the U.S. trade deficit. Passing the Colombia deal would kill any leverage Colombian union, and Afro-Colombian and other community leaders and their U.S. union and civil society friends and allies have to stop the murders, forced displacements and other acts of political violence that dominate life in Colombia.

Even on the very week that President Obama announced his re-election bid, once again the administration’s response to a GOP/corporate hostage situation has been to betray its commitments and stomp its political base to comply with hostage takers whose goal is Democrats’ defeat.

Obviously, if the goal of this administration action really was to address the conditions in Colombia – where the number of unionist assassinations has grown during the period of maximum congressional and public scrutiny from 37 when the FTA was signed in 2007 to 51 in 2010 – a very different approach would be undertaken.

To start with, the administration would have adopted the recommendations of those in Congress, unions and other civil society groups who have taken a lead on these issues, rather than springing on them a done deal that meets none of the congressional benchmarks and requires no change in outcomes in the horrible human and labor rights violations suffered daily in Colombia before a trade agreement may be considered. Instead of rushing into an easy-to-meet list of changes to laws and agencies in Colombia, which can be done largely with the stroke of a pen, the administration would have required demonstrated changes on the ground – a serious reduction of unionist and other rights defenders’ murders, successful prosecution of some of the thousands of impunity cases – then conditioned consideration of any trade pact on evidence that such changes had actually occurred. Ninety-seven percent of past murders remain unprosecuted.

The terms of a real initiative would have been enforceable as part of a trade agreement – with consequences related to a loss of trade benefits for failure to maintain real improvements. Instead, this plan is all optics, with no requirement that conditions improve all at before an FTA could be moved. And contrary to administration claims, many aspects of it fall outside the weak labor chapter in the FTA text, which relates only to “trade-related” labor issues. And, the deal would have explicitly addressed the documented and escalating human rights abuses, murders and forced displacement of Afro-Colombians, indigenous people and other vulnerable populations.

The goal was not to get a real deal, but to get something that could be announced when Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos visited the White House today.

We face a situation – an Obama Colombia-Korea NAFTA expansion – that is equal parts damaging, heartbreaking, infuriating and disgusting.

Click here to see statements on the “action plan” from members of Congress and U.S. and Colombian union leaders.

Continue reading "Obama’s Colombia-Korea NAFTA Expansion Is Damaging, Heartbreaking, Infuriating and Disgusting" »

April 06, 2011

Obama to advance Colombia trade pact without requiring union murders to stop

The Obama administration announced today that it would move forward with an Action Plan on the Colombia FTA, without requiring murders of unionists to stop.  

The plan does not appear to fully address any of the 27 labor rights metrics outlined by House Democrats that were necessary to be fully implemented and yielding results before the FTA should be brought to Congress.

Democrats and labor groups quickly criticized the Obama Action Plan. The six congressional Democrats criticized the plan for failing to require actual results on the ground, and said that the plan does not meet their list of concerns. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said that the federation was

“deeply disappointed that the Obama administration has signaled that will move forward to submit the proposed U.S.-Colombia Trade Agreement to a vote in the near future. In our view, the situation in Colombia remains unacceptably violent for trade unionists, as well as for human rights defenders and other vulnerable populations... We have no doubt that if 51 CEOs had been murdered in Colombia last year, this deal would be on a very slow track indeed."

Colombia remains the most dangerous country in the world in which to be a trade unionist. In fact, the number of murdered unionists in the last three years – 52 in 2008, 47 in 2009, and 51 in 2010 – has exceeded the 39 killed in 2007, the year the FTA was signed. The 2008-2010 was the period when the Colombian government was under maximum scrutiny.

Indeed, in every year, more unionists are murdered in Colombia than in the rest of the world combined. According to Colombia’s National Labor School, the leading source on the topic, nearly 2,860 trade unionists have been killed since 1986.  Only six percent of these cases have resulted in any convictions. This is roughly a 94 percent impunity ratio. 

April 05, 2011

Korea FTA Benefits China at the Expense of U.S. and South Korean Workers

We’re continuing our series of facts in response to the Korean Embassy’s misleading claims on the Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Our full response can be viewed here. This is the final installment, focusing on the Korea FTA’s lax domestic content requirements for autos.

Lori Wallach’s Huffington Post piece: “The FTA allows its benefits to accrue to autos that contain only 35 percent U.S. or Korean content.”

Korean Embassy’s claim: “The KORUS FTA stipulates that 35% of the components used to manufacture products (under the build-up method/net cost method) or 55% of the components of the final product (using the build-down method) must originate in one of the two countries to be eligible for preferential treatment. A 45% maximum foreign content rule under the Korea-EU FTA corresponds with the minimum 55% domestic contents rule under the KORUS FTA (using the builddown method). Also, the EU’s standard foreign content rule was 40%, not 45%.” Elsewhere, the Embassy has gone further, stating that the build-up and build-down methods “are supposed to be equivalent to each other. The 20% difference between the methodologies reflects the operation cost in the final product processing stage and manufacturers’ dividends, etc.”[i]

Facts: These two methods are not equivalent. Multinational companies have pushed for rules that intentionally allow them the discretion to include as much as 65 percent content from outside the FTA countries, at the expense of workers in both the U.S. and South Korea.

As the United Autoworkers and others have repeatedly noted, Korean automakers have the option to use the “build-up” method to calculate the domestic value content under the US-Korea FTA, which requires that only 35 percent of the value of the motor vehicle be comprised of domestic parts to qualify for FTA benefits. This method allows – but does not require – that importers deduct certain “fringe” costs like transportation when calculating the maximum permissible share of content from non-FTA countries.[ii]

The EU-Korea FTA provides for only one way for automakers to calculate the domestic value content. Under the EU-Korea FTA, a Korean motor vehicle qualifies for FTA benefits only if its foreign content comprises 45 percent or less of the vehicle.[iii] Put differently, the minimum domestic value content for the EU-Korea FTA is 55 percent. Given that the EU-Korea FTA mandates that 55 percent of the value of a Korean auto must be of domestic components, while the “build up” method of the US-Korea FTA mandates that only 35 percent of the value of a Korean auto must be of domestic components, Korean automakers will be able to put a much greater portion of Chinese components into vehicles destined for the United States, undercutting auto production in the United States.

Members of Congress and fair trade groups have long raised concerns about the low percentage of originating content required for goods to qualify for duty-free FTA treatment. The Labor Advisory Committee for Trade Negotiations and Trade Policy has warned that the lax rules of origin in the Peru, Oman, and Korea FTAs would allow large quantities of goods from third countries such as China to enter the United States duty-free under the FTAs.[iv] Reports on previous FTAs have made similar points.[v] However, industry representatives have successfully pushed the U.S. Trade Representative to include lax rules of origin in FTAs.[vi]



[i] http://www.koreauspartnership.org/pdf/Other%20Issues.pdf

[ii] See Annex 6-A of the Korea FTA,  Available at: http://www.ustr.gov/sites/default/files/uploads/agreements/fta/korus/asset_upload_file680_12704.pdf. See also: International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), “The Social and Economic Impact of the US-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA),” September 14, 2010, Available at: http://www.imfmetal.org/files/10102608591310005/UAW_KORUS_FTA_ENGLISH.pdf

[iii] See Protocol 1 of the E.U.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, Available at: http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/html/145192.htm

[iv] Labor Advisory Committee for Trade Negotiations and Trade Policy, “The U.S.-Oman Free Trade Agreement,” November 15, 2005, at 9, Available at: www.citizenstrade.org/pdf/omanLACreport_11152005.pdf

Labor Advisory Committee for Trade Negotiations and Trade Policy, “The U.S.-Peru Free Trade Agreement,” February 1, 2006, at 1, Available at: www.citizenstrade.org/pdf/peruLACreport_02012006.pdf

Labor Advisory Committee for Trade Negotiations and Trade Policy, “The U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement,” April 27, 2007, at 28, Available at: http://ustraderep.gov/assets/Trade_Agreements/Bilateral/Republic_of_Korea_FTA/Reports/asset_upload_file698_12781.pdf

[v] See Labor Advisory Committee for Trade Negotiations and Trade Policy, “The U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement,” February 28, 2003, at 14-15. Available at: http://ustraderep.gov/assets/Trade_Agreements/Bilateral/Singapore_FTA/Reports/asset_upload_file77_3220.pdf

[vi] For example, the Industry Sector Advisory Committee on Transportation, Construction, Mining, and Agricultural Equipment urged USTR to allow the build-down method to calculate the domestic content for autos in the Chile FTA after the initial draft agreement only included the build-up method. The final agreement allowed the both methods. See ISAC 16, “Report for the Chile Free Trade Agreement,” February 2003, at 6; USITC, “U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement: Potential Economywide and Selected Sectoral Effects,” June 2003, at 80; Chapter 4 of U.S.-Korea FTA.

March 21, 2011

Tariffdega Nights: The Latest Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Adam McKay, the writer and director of such Will Ferrell classics as Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Talladega Nights The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Bobby, has always had a political streak. His Funny or Die website featured the hilarious video with all the "SNL presidents" calling for Wall Street reform, and his movie "The Other Guys" tackled corporate corruption in its closing credits.

His engagement with policy runs deep. He maintains a blog over at the Huffington Post, where he recently questioned offshoring of jobs. And on comedian Marc Maron's excellent podcast, McKay recently said the following:

McKay: You have to raise trade tariffs. We only pay 2%... India has a 40% tariff, China has 22%, we only have a 2% tariff. That's crazy! You notice no one talks about that. You could almost say that one issue alone could change our whole nation if we went to a 10% trade tariff.

Maron: Because it would encourage manufacturing?

McKay: All the manufacturing would come back here. Wal-Mart couldn't be making that money anymore. You'd see factories spring up all over this country. And you could get rid of all those subsidies, the 48 billion, you could get rid of the Bush tax cuts...

By the way, we could literally balance the budget and fix the economy right now in 10 minutes. That's how easy it is. The problem is the wall of white noise and misinformation and anger that gets in the way of it where they justify everything...

How about Mitch McConnell in Kentucky voted against the Made in America provision for the stimulus package, and he's in the poorest state in the country? Against the Made in America provision, but no one talks about that. Instead it's about liberals, it's about gay marriage...

It would be pretty unusual to hear this policy advocated in Washington policy circles. But then again, as a long running Pew poll shows, there is a wide gap between the general public and elite respondents (defined as Council on Foreign Relations members) when it comes to trade policy.

March 16, 2011

Gingrich lauds loss of jobs to Mexico

As Alex Seitz-Wald at Think Progress reports, possible Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is saying NAFTA worked because it created jobs in Mexico. On a call in show, Gingrich said:

    CALLER: Back in the ’90s I remember Ross Perot saying that there was going to be the giant sucking sound of jobs if NAFTA passed. I think it ended up being true, right? And I know you were a big free trader.

    GINGRICH: Yeah, well, I don’t think it was true in Mexico. I think the fact is that NAFTA allowed us to build jobs in Canada, the United States, and Mexico, in competition with China. I mean, our big competitor is not Mexico. Our big competitor is China and India. And I’d rather have jobs close to the United States than have jobs overseas in places like China and India. That’s why I was in favor of it. … So in a sense, I’d like our neighborhood to be fairly well off and fairly prosperous.

I doubt too many fair trade Tea Party folk will rally behind a guy who shows so little concerns for "Making it in America."

Moreover, as EOT readers know, it's false that NAFTA has somehow benefited Mexico at the expense of the United States: it has been lose-lose for working people in both nations.

Today's revelation that the Pentagon is flying drones over Mexico to track down narcotraffickers is just the latest revelation that NAFTA prioritized the corporate bottomline at the expense of sustainable, non-drug related job creation.

(Disclosure: Public Citizen has no preference among the candidates for public office.)

March 08, 2011

Trade party at the cattle farm

Princeton economist Uwe Reinhardt had an interesting post on trade last week on the NYT website that will probably spark some debate. He writes:

The economist’s case for free trade is cobbled together from the toolkit labeled normative economics, a branch of economic analysis that seeks to identify what is efficient and what is not and, thus, what is good policy and what is not — and, therefore, what should and should not be done.

I have already written several posts that were critical of that branch of economics. My objection to this approach is the dictatorial, collectivist nature of normative analysis.

In a nutshell, in that branch of inquiry, economists view the world as a giant cattle farm to be managed in ways that maximize the collective weight of the cattle, totally in abstraction from the welfare of any individual animal. We call the collective weight of the cattle social welfare.

The cattle-farm model then allows us to say, with a straight face, that if a public policy bestows a gain of $2,000 on George but makes Martha $1,000 poorer, social welfare has been increased.

This dictum underlies the economist’s case for free trade. The cattle farm is global. Free-trade analysis pays little attention to the love people have for their own nation, which makes them assign more weight to the welfare of fellow citizens than to that of citizens of other countries.

The post - along with Reinhardt's post from last month - couldn't have come at a more appropriate time.

Many proponents of what they deem "free trade" (not to mention "free trade agreements" that have little to do with actual free trade) have been ramping up the cattle farm happy talk recently.

Take for instance this well-assembled video clip on the virtues of "free trade". I highly recommend the three minute clip, because it captures exactly what is wrong with the cattle farm metaphors.

In the simple world of Fritz and Lou (the characters in the clip), free trade makes about as much sense, as well, a division of labor at your workplace or home. That's because the simple stories we use to talk about the benefits of division of labor between individuals are at their core the same stories we use to talk about the benefits of trade between nations.

But nations are different than people, because there's more than one person in a nation. And as the recent protests in Wisconsin remind us, there is a class division in America. The trade policies that we have pursued have benefited one (increasingly tiny but insanely wealthy) class at the expense of another. And not only has the upper class not been redistributing their newfound gains to the rest of us (an operating assumption that underpins the classical free trade story), but they're actually calling for ripping off the few bandaids and burial insurance policies that are in place.

This themes are are also raised in "Free Trade Doesn't Work," a readable book by Ian Fletcher, now a fellow with the Coalition for a Prosperous America. Reinhardt and Fletcher are asking many of the same questions, making many supporters of status quo trade policies uncomfortable in the process.

February 07, 2011

Pushing Obama on Latest Class Snuggle

Protest 7 Today, workers’ rights and fair trade advocates gathered at Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C. ahead of President Obama's address to the Chamber of Commerce. They urged President Obama to defend American jobs and oppose NAFTA style “free trade” agreements such as the Korea FTA. Groups represented included the National Nurses United/California Nurses Association (NNU) and ThinkProgress, among others. Donna Smith of NNU stated, “the Chamber of Commerce represents Wall Street and corporate greed, not working people. It encourages employers to roll back rights and living standards for working people. It promotes the outsourcing of U.S. jobs, and spends hundreds of millions of dollars at home to influence Congress to achieve tax breaks for big business and block reforms for working people.” Some of those present also voiced their distaste with President Obama’s support for the to Korea trade deal, which stands in stark contrast with his campaign promises on trade. 

February 03, 2011

Belief vs. Reality in West Lafayette Park

The Washington Post reported an interesting tidbit today:

"That's been a big piece of the business community's mantra for a long time: trade," said Daley, who was an adviser to President Bill Clinton on NAFTA and became Obama's chief of staff last month. "Just about every Republican I've engaged with in one way or the other at social events or calls, when I got the job . . . all of them that I've talked to, they all go right to Korea and the trade issue, because I think there's a belief that, you know, that can help the economy."

So, there you have it. Some businesses and some Republicans believe that the Korea FTA will help the economy, so the White House is making it a priority.

But, as we've documented, the projections show that the reality of the Korea FTA will be a net negative for the economy. And, as Roll Call reported yesterday, plenty of small business groups and Republicans are against the deal:

Opponents of free-trade deals say they can swing tea party backers to their side. Michael Ostrolenk, national director of StopUSKoreaNAFTA.org, said his center-right libertarian group favors free trade but opposes the South Korea deal because it would cost U.S. jobs and sovereignty.

In other words, there's a formula for uniting the country (as opposed to just west Lafayette Park residents) around trade expansion, but the Korea FTA ain't it.

January 28, 2011

New Data Feature: Jobs at Risk from the Korea FTA

In previous additions to the Trade Data Center, we have examined the impact of past unfair trade deals such as NAFTA in your community through official government job loss data. But now we wish to look into the future. Or, rather, a future. A future where Congress has voted to approve the Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA), putting at risk thousands of jobs.

We have tallied the number of jobs in each congressional district and state that are in industries predicted to be harmed by the Korea FTA. The U.S. International Trade Commission projects that implementation of the Korea FTA will lead to a combined $2 billion rise in the U.S. trade deficit in electronics, motor vehicles and parts, other transportation equipment, metal products, iron-containing metals, textiles, and apparel (among other sectors), which could endanger the jobs of workers in those industries. We have determined the approximate number of jobs at risk from the Korea FTA in each state and congressional district with data on individual facilities in these industries and a little programming magic. (Data nerds – you know who you are – can read about how we did it here).

Viewing the number of jobs at risk in your state and congressional district is easy. Just go to the page with the database here, select your state, and type in your congressional district or "Statewide" for your statewide numbers, and click "search". It gives you a breakdown of the jobs in each of the seven sectors most at risk from the Korea FTA.

 

Korea FTA vulnerable jobs pre-search 

Korea FTA vulnerable jobs post-search
 

In the current job climate with almost 10 percent unemployment, we can't afford another job-killing NAFTA-style trade deal like the Korea FTA. Click here to contact your representative and help stop the Korea FTA.

You can explore other great features in the Trade Data Center here.

December 10, 2010

U.S. Workers Don't Care if Korea Buys Tomorrow the U.S. Exports Germany Bought Today

Over at the White House blog, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk continues his tendency to play loose with the facts of the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) study. He says:

The tariff cuts alone in the U.S. - Korea trade agreement will increase exports of American goods and services by $10 to $11 billion.  We expect this agreement to create 70,000-plus jobs for American workers in a wide range of economic sectors from autos and manufacturing to agriculture.

In reality, the USITC study that the administration has been citing predicts that U.S. exports in the sectors analyzed will increase by $4.8-5.3 billion, but imports will increase by $5.1-5.7 billion due to the Korea FTA. This leads to a net increase in the deficit of between $308 million and $416 million.  The “$10 to $11 billion” figure that Kirk is citing refers to the increase in exports to only Korea, but does not account for declines in U.S. exports to other countries that the FTA will induce. Because of the way that bilateral trade agreements affect global trade flows, about 50% of the increase in exports to Korea are merely U.S. exports to third countries shifting to Korea. In other words, 50% of the “$10 to $11 billion” does not represent new exports, only exports that have changed destination.

Put differently, U.S. workers don't care if Korea buys tomorrow the U.S-made products Germany bought today. This creates no new jobs, although it may increase carbon emissions with the longer shipping times. Couple this with the fact that the USITC shows that U.S. workers’ net exports will be lower after the deal is implemented, and U.S. workers have every reason to oppose this deal.

Furthermore, as much as Ron Kirk hopes that the agreement will create jobs in the auto sector, the government's own projections suggests that jobs will be lost in the auto sector. The study predicts that the auto deficit will increase by $531-708 million ( See our memo on the topic here). Although the USITC model does not allow the total number of jobs in the U.S. economy to change, it predicts that a substantial number of jobs in the auto sector will shift away from autos to other sectors of the economy (see Table 2.4 on page 2-15 in the USITC report). Thus, contrary to Kirk's expectations, U.S. auto workers will be losers in this Korea FTA.

December 09, 2010

Video: Korea Trade Deal Reality Check

While President Obama and corporate lobbyists attempt to sell the Korea trade deal, South Korean farmers and a mass of labor and environmental organizations in the United States are strongly and clearly opposed. Protesters depicted in the video below urged the South Korean government to abolish the trade deal “fearing it would harm both agricultural producers and cattle farmers.”

Public outrage about the deal in the United States is no surprise as a September 2010 NBC/WSJ poll found that 69% of Americans believe free trade agreements with other countries have cost jobs in the United States. View a compilation of statements in opposition to the Korea trade deal here.

In another protest in Seoul on Sunday, Lee Chun-seok, spokesman for the main opposition Democratic Party, accused the government of making "massive concessions against our national interests," his party said. "We cannot find the principle of reciprocity anywhere in the agreement."

It is clear that President Obama did not take stock of American citizens’ opinions nor South Koreans’ welfare when reaching a decision to push the Korea trade deal. Now it is up to the 112th Congress to decide whether to settle for the deeply flawed pact or reject another NAFTA-style deal with no realistic promise of benefitting Americans or South Koreans.

December 06, 2010

Industrial Policy IS Sexy - CRT

The following is recent dispatch from the Climate Reality Tour - a movement building bike tour. My bike partner and I are biking from West Virginia to the U.N. Climate Talks in Cancún to connect the dots between Globalization policies and global climate change. DSC01737

+++ For most folks, there might be nothing less sexy than industrial policy. An abstract government process for deciding how to intervene in the globalized marketplace to support what major industries - often quite polluting ones. It lacks the high-speed flare of bike culture (in which we are awash), the colorful bouquet of community gardening, the human drama of environmental justice struggle.

But green industrial policy might just be what saves the planet. It’s a tragic that it’s sultry allure is lost on us.

We were impressed in our interview with Bill Londrigan, the President of the Kentucky AFL-CIO, how deeply he understood the need for holistic green industrial policy – one that moves rapidly to phase out dirty industry and replace it with green jobs. “Hopefully we can make some rational decisions about where we need to go… to make sure we can evolve to where [energy and industry] aren’t harmful to the environment” Londrigan says. “And the government could play a great role.”

But we are talking more than your typical one-time weatherization jobs and beyond just the renewable energy sector. Green industrial policy can tie the other threads together, and create jobs and healthier communities in the process. As has been discussed, if we shifted our food, transit, and energy policy we could address the injustice and unsustainability in those systems. We can imagine regional bike manufacturing with green energy, and labor-intensive local food systems underwritten by our government. This would be welcome industrial policy to shift from unsustainable centralized corporate status quo.

Continue reading "Industrial Policy IS Sexy - CRT" »

November 08, 2010

Candidates of color running and winning on fair trade

Anytime you force an ad-man to compress a difficult policy problem into a 30-second soundbyte, you're going to lose some complexity.

That's why I was surprised at the push back on politicians on so-called "China bashing." (See for instance, Reihan Salam here, and Matt Yglesias here.)

I watched about 800 political ads for the 2010 cycle, and most of the China-related ads I that I saw were not bashing Chinese people - they're bashing unfair trade deals and policies, voted on in Washington, that had the effect of offshoring jobs to other countries. In other words, the reason things aren't made in America is because of policies that were. You can see the full pantheon of ads and analysis in our new report here.)

For what it's worth, candidates of color (including a number of South Indian Americans and Asian Americans) in both parties have launched some of the strongest attacks on job offshoring this election cycle.

This includes Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.) in Portland, who bears the distinction not only of being an Asian-American campaigning for fair trade, but also a Democrat showing that you can campaign and win on fair trade in the Pacific Northwest, where the (incorrect) conventional wisdom is that this message doesn't play.

Democrats and Indian-Americans Manan Trivedi in Pennsylvania and Raj Goyle in Kansas also posted credible showings in GOP-leaning districts. Both campaigned extensively on fair trade themes. As an NPR column argued:

The trick for these candidates is to never let voters forget you are running to represent Sacramento, or Wichita - not Bangalore.

Raj Goyle does this by campaigning very hard on fighting outsourcing of Kansas jobs.  Ami Bera agrees, "we have to keep those jobs here because we have over 12 percent unemployment."

(Bera ran in against Dan Lungren in California.)

In Hawaii, Democratic candidate Colleen Hanabusa criticized job offshoring in paid television ads, and was successful in her effort to unseat GOP incumbent Charles Djou, who ran the campaign's only television ad in favor of the Korea FTA. Both candidates are Asian American.

Democrat and Congressional Hispanic Caucus member Loretta Sanchez fought back a challenge from Vietnamese-American GOP candidate Van Tran in this heavily Latino and Asian district. She campaigned against unfair trade with Vietnam, and against other anti-worker trade deals.

In Louisiana, African-American candidate Cedric Richmond beat Vietnamese-American GOP incumbent Anh Cao. Richmond ran paid television ads against unfair trade deals, while Cao attacked unfair trade with Vietnam (even though he had supported the Bush-initiated Trans-Pacific Partnership while in office).

In Georgia, Democratic incumbent and African-American Sanford Bishop won re-election in his majority White-American, deep South district, and ran paid television ads attacking NAFTA and China trade policy. (Bishop has had complicated trade policy history - voting for the WTO and China's entry into it, while voting against NAFTA and cosponsoring the fair trade TRADE Act.) Meanwhile, his fellow Democratic incumbent Jim Marshall did not campaign on his fair trade record, and lost to Austin Scott, a Republican that emphasized Buy America themes. (Both Marshall and Scott are white.)

Ryan Frazier, an African-American GOP candidate in Colorado, criticized the fact that the stimulus bill was not used to buy only U.S.-made goods. Allen West, an African-American GOP candidate in Florida, criticized the job offshoring impact of cap-and-trade. Their Democratic opponents approached these candidates in different ways: Ed Perlmutter in Colorado ran anti-offshoring ads of his own and won, while Ron Klein in Florida was mum on trade and lost.

And Latino voters in California and Nevada strongly backed Democratic Senate incumbents Barbara Boxer and Harry Reid, who both campaigned against policies that send jobs to Mexico and other countries.

Finally, 75 percent of the Congressional Black Caucus, nearly half of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and Asian-American members like Reps. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Judy Chu (D-Calif.) have endorsed the TRADE Act, which simultaneously pushes for good jobs here at home, while prioritizing stronger environmental justice, workers rights and democratic protections for our trading partners. Not to mention a fellow named Barack Obama, who also campaigned and won on these themes - winning not only communities of color but making serious inroads into the white working class.

In sum, elected officials don't seem to have much difficulty reconciling justice for communities of color at home and abroad with a strong working class message of standing up for job creation in the United States. They know as well as anyone what my colleagues John Schmitt and Nicole Woo (and other CEPR folks) have found: that the quality of manufacturing and other jobs here at home is a major reason that families from Asian-Pacific, African-American and Latino-American communities have ascended to the middle class.

October 27, 2010

Follow the Climate Reality Tour!

DSC01484 We’re pleased to unveil an exciting new project: the Climate Reality Tour.

You may have caught an earlier post, but in case you didn't, let's fill you in The Climate Reality Tour is a movement-building road trip to promote global economic policies that are fair for workers and shift away from the climate- and job-destroying status quo. The destination? The United Nations Climate Negotiations in Cancun in late November. And to bring home the sustainability point, we decided to go by bike. Yep, by bike!

With the world in the grips of overlapping global crises – food, economic/financial and climate – the stakes are high indeed. To save the planet requires confronting these crises simultaneously, and that means overcoming the false jobs vs. environment trade-off. In truth, corporations benefit from exploiting both while human beings and the earth suffer.

But this requires political will and resolve far beyond what we’ve seen from either political party, and even many leading civil society organizations. At Public Citizen, we’ve long believed our unsustainable global economic order, as etched in the tomes of the WTO and NAFTA-type trade deals, unfairly pits workers and ecosystems against one another. We’ve decried how the status quo sanctifies the rights or multinational corporations to exploit and destroy – even above the democratic rights of a people determine their own economic and eological futures.

Continue reading "Follow the Climate Reality Tour!" »

October 08, 2010

Find Layoffs Caused by Outsourcing and Imports

The Trade Data Center that we launched last week contains so many data products that they can almost be lost in a blur. Right now I’d like to take some time to zoom in and profile the most exciting new data product – the overhauled Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) database. The TAA database, available here, tracks specific layoffs that have occurred due to rising imports or outsourcing, as certified by the Department of Labor.

Some readers may be familiar with the TAA database that Public Citizen has maintained for years.  Our new database is an overhauled version of this.  Whereas the previous database only gave the workplace location in the form of the city and state, you can search the new database by congressional district, county, and metropolitan area!  It also gives information about the foreign country implicated in many of the layoffs.

Plus, the new database consolidates the databases of the regular TAA program and the NAFTA-TAA program, which operated between 1994 and 2002, so we can be sure of exactly how many jobs were lost due to imports or outsourcing in a given locality.  Take a look at the FAQ on the database or the technical documentation for more information on these topics.

I’ll give a few examples of how to use the database.

Last month, the corporate members of the President’s Export Council released a letter advocating for the passage of the Bush-negotiated Korea, Panama, and Colombia Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), claiming that passage would boost exports. They ignored the fact that the growth of exports to FTA partners has lagged behind exports to other countries, as we showed in our recent report.  It is possible that these corporations are pushing for FTAs since it would facilitate the export of American jobs rather than American goods. We can investigate this with the help of the TAA database.

Let’s pick Xerox, one of the corporate members of the President’s Export Council. First, we enter “Xerox” into the “Company” search box.

TAA Xerox company

Uncheck the “Denied Petitions” box under the “Cause” option so that the search results include only layoffs that have been certified by the Department of Labor as occurring due to offshoring or rising imports.

TAA Xerox pet denied

Then click “Search”

TAA Xerox results

The first result is a Xerox copier factory in Webster, NY that laid off 450 workers when it outsourced work to Mexico in 2000.  In total, 1613 Xerox workers have been certified under the TAA program.  Does Xerox support FTAs because it thinks that it can export more products with FTAs or is it chomping at the bit to outsource more jobs, which the FTAs would facilitate?

You can query the database for all trade-impacted workplaces in a certain geographic area, such as congressional district. 

Simply select the state and input the desired district number – with a leading zero if it is a single digit – and it will pull up all the workplaces in that district. Make sure to uncheck the “Denied Petitions” checkbox if you only want the certified workplaces. Let’s pick Connecticut’s 5th district.

TAA CT-05 input

There are 79 certifications covering 6,021 laid off workers. Rep. Chris Murphy, who represents Connecticut’s 5th district, should carefully consider becoming a cosponsor of the TRADE Act since unfair trade has been so harmful to his constituents.

Finally, don’t forget to check out our Google map that displays the location of all of the TAA-certified workplaces and gives information about each. Double click a part of the map to zoom into your town and explore how unfair trade has impacted your community.

August 06, 2010

Department of Bogus Jobs Statistics

Last Friday, U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk was in Pennsylvania to tout the Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) where he claimed that “Increased exports due to the Korea deal alone may support as many as 70,000 additional jobs nationwide.”

Most of the time these types of jobs statistics seem to come out of thin air and you never hear how the proponents came up with them. However, with a bit of investigation we can try to trace this number back to its origin.

An earlier mention of this stat in the President’s Progress Report on the National Export Initiative gives a hint as to its origin: “The Korean FTA would increase goods exports by an estimated $10-11 billion, which would support an estimated 70,000 jobs…”

The $10-11 billion exports figure matches the bilateral export figure in Table 2.2 of the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) report on the Korea FTA, so it seems that the export figure comes from there. Now, if only we had an exports-to-jobs ratio…

Aha! – a recent report from the International Trade Administration estimated that every $150,000 in exports supports one American job (see Table 1 here). Applying this multiplier to the USITC exports estimate, we get 73,333-66,667 jobs. The 70,000 jobs stat is right in the middle of the range, so there is a high probability that this is the origin of the estimate.

Sure, more exports leads to more jobs, but don’t NAFTA-style FTAs tend to increase imports, which force companies to lay off American workers?  This “70,000 new jobs” stat leaves out any consideration of the effect of imports.  The USITC’s report does contain full estimates of the increased imports that the Korea FTA will bring about, but the USTR chooses to ignore this estimate.

If we were to account for the effects of imports, use this same method of jobs calculation, and consider the effect of the Korea FTA on the U.S. global trade balance (available on Table 2.3 in the USITC report), we would find that the Korea FTA would cost us a net 2,100-2,700 jobs, since the trade deficit will increase by $308-$416 million.

The bottom line is that the “70,000 jobs created” number is just a bogus stat, and USTR should stop using it to promote the Korea FTA.

(And, BTW, as for Kirk's selective invocation of the merely bilateral change in trade, 60 percent of the merely bilateral job estimate is wiped away if you were to also incorporate the USITC's projections on bilateral imports with Korea.)

UPDATE: Lastly, even if the 70,000 jobs figure was correct, the U.S. would have to do the equivalent of signing 29 Korea FTAs to get to Obama's goal of 2 million jobs from exports by 2015, which would be a heavy lift since Korea is the 15th largest economy in the world.

July 27, 2010

From Building Cars to Packing Meat

When the Bush administration tried to sell the Panama and Colombia FTAs, it argued that the FTAs would simply make our trade relationship a two-way street with these countries since they already enjoy greater access to the U.S. market through trade preference programs.  (And we have still seen rising deficits with the CAFTA countries even though much of their exports fell under preference programs before CAFTA was implemented). South Korea, though, does not enjoy any preferential market access, so if the FTA were to be implemented as-is and the trade barriers come down, we will most likely see a tremendous surge of imports.

To get a hint of the possible jobs impact of the Korea FTA, we’ll dive more deeply into that U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) study that we mentioned a few weeks ago. 

The USITC study indicates that jobs will likely be lost in many high-wage industries, including auto manufacturing and electronics manufacturing. The table below displays the USITC’s estimates of impact of the Korea FTA upon employment and the trade deficit in a few sectors of the U.S. economy, available in Tables 2.3 and 2.4 of the report. The USITC gives employment changes in percent terms rather than in numbers of jobs, so to make the loss more tangible we’ve computed the job loss numbers based on the USITC percent change estimates and sector employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

  USITC Korea FTA estimates

According to the USITC study, the auto manufacturing industry may lose about 1,750 workers due to the Korea FTA.*  The average hourly earnings of workers in the auto industry was $23.61 in 2008, which was 9.2 percent greater than the average hourly earnings of all workers employed in the private sector ($21.62). The average hourly earnings of workers in the electronic equipment manufacturing industry, projected to lose about 5,000 workers, was $30.38 in 2008, which was 40.5 percent greater than the average hourly earnings of all workers employed in the private sector.

As the table shows, large rises in the trade deficit in these sectors are driving the employment loss, totaling up to almost $1.7 billion for motor vehicles and parts, other transportation equipment, and electronic equipment alone. Interestingly, the USITC predicted that there would be an absolute decline in the total value of exports in some manufacturing sectors, not just a worsening of the balance. For example, total U.S. exports of electronic equipment are expected to decline by up to $381 million due to the implementation of the Korea FTA (see Table 2.3 in the study).

Continue reading "From Building Cars to Packing Meat" »

July 09, 2010

As Obama pushes FTAs, unionists in Colombia & Panama are killed

The same day that Obama pledged to move forward on the leftover Bush FTAs, one unionist was killed and dozens were wounded in Panama during protests over Panama's new law that severely weakens labor rights.

Last month, two trade unionists were killed in Colombia. This AFL-CIO blog post puts it in perspective. 

There are many reasons to oppose the Colombia and Panama FTAs in their present form. The fact that they would give multinational corporations the ability to exploit the horrible human and labor rights situation in these countries is an important one.

May 11, 2010

Seattle Employment Not Harmed by NAFTA? O RLY?

Ron Kirk photo Last week U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk was in Seattle to meet with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) trade ministers and business executives.  In conversations with reporters, he seemed to imply that Washington workers haven’t experienced the devastating effects of the NAFTA trade policy model like workers in the Midwest have:

"When I'm east of the Mississippi, people think I'm a two-headed monster," he quipped. He said he loves coming here. "For every five trips to Michigan and Illinois I ought to earn one trip to Seattle."

Eh? Is it true that Seattle has escaped the fate that has befallen Michigan and Illinois?

No. The manufacturing base of Seattle has been crippled in the NAFTA/WTO trade policy era.  Since the implementation of NAFTA in 1994, the Seattle area has lost 29,600 manufacturing jobs, a decline of 16 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Washington as a whole has lost 51,100 manufacturing jobs since NAFTA entered into force. These are prime high-paying jobs with good benefits to support families, and the NAFTA trade model was a contributing factor in their disappearance.  In fact, a study conducted by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that the increase in the deficit with Canada and Mexico alone since NAFTA’s implementation has cost Washington 16,500 jobs.

The Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment (TRADE) Act offers a way to fix the flawed NAFTA model through ensuring that U.S. trade agreements include strong labor, environmental, and consumer protections that would help grow jobs instead of destroy them.  If Seattle-area Representatives Jay Inslee, Jim McDermott, David Reichert, and Adam Smith were to join the 140 cosponsors of the TRADE Act, it would go a long way toward reversing the devastating effects of the NAFTA model on Washington workers.  EPI’s recent study on the effect of the rise in the trade deficit with China since it joined the WTO in 2001 upon jobs should give the members of Congress extra incentive to support the fair trade policy embodied by the TRADE Act.  Here are the EPI-estimated job losses from the China deficit in each of their districts:

1st District (Rep. Jay Inslee): 6,800 jobs lost

7th District (Rep. Jim McDermott): 5,600 jobs lost

8th District (Rep. David Reichert): 7,100 jobs lost

9th District (Rep. Adam Smith): 4,900 jobs lost

For more analysis about why the NAFTA model is bad for Washington workers, see The Real Pirates of the Caribbean: U.S. High Tech Industry’s False CAFTA Promises Disguise Bad Policy by the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, and The American Ingenuity Alliance (with some help from Global Trade Watch).

April 29, 2010

No Labor Rights Protections Harm Exports, Too

Sandylevin Representative Sander Levin, Chairperson of the House Ways and Mean Committee, last week gave a speech at the National Press Club where he discussed the problems with the Colombia FTA, among other things.  As is well documented, the lack of strong labor rights protections in trade agreements promotes the export of dirt cheap goods (made with dirt cheap labor) to the U.S. from our FTA partners, which suppresses wages and destroys jobs in the United States.  Rep. Levin, though, examined a less-discussed consequence of weak worker protections:  low wages hurt the U.S. on the export side of the equation, too, since workers in our FTA partner countries are not paid enough to purchase U.S.-made goods, so our exports suffer.

At the National Press Club, Levin said:

I want to say a word about Colombia….With Colombia and this was the battle we had over CAFTA. Latin American countries in too many cases, essentially, have these deep disparities in terms of income and opportunity. You can't grow middle classes under those circumstances. Middle classes are the ones who buy our goods basically.

So there's a basic point in worker rights and environmental issues, worker rights, it's not because anybody is standing up for any particular interest group in this country. We're standing up for our businesses and workers and for the workers in other countries who need to be part of the mix in order to buy our goods….

I went onto Colombia myself as I did when I went to China myself, went to the CAFTA countries myself to see firsthand what the conditions were.

I met with people who work in the sugar industry. There, essentially workers are totally deprived of their ability to be participants and have a say. They've set up these so-called cooperatives that are essentially dummy outfits and workers go from cooperative to cooperative being paid for by some entity, unable to be able to be a major part of the economy. That has to be fixed for their good and our good.

I fully understand the importance of opening up the Colombian market. I fully understand that for our workers, our businesses and workers. But we need to have trade agreements that essentially reflect our values and in the case of workers, basic international labor values.

Rep. Levin is right to be deeply concerned about the inequality in Colombia.  According to the CIA, Colombia has the 9th highest Gini index in the world. (The Gini index is the most commonly used measure of the gap between the rich and the poor.  It is a number between 0 and 100, with higher numbers indicating greater inequality.)  And the inequality is getting worse over time – in 1996 Colombia’s Gini index was 53.8, but by 2008 it had jumped to 58.5.  In comparison, the United States, which ranks as the 42nd most unequal society, has a Gini index of 45.0.

Another way of looking at inequality in Colombia is the share of income that goes to the poorest 10 percent of the population and the richest 10 percent of the population.  In Colombia, the poorest 10 percent earn only 0.8 percent of all income, while the richest 10 percent earn 45.0 percent of all income. 

By not protecting workers’ rights and allowing the violent suppression of unions, the government of Colombia has allowed its society to become incredibly unequal, preventing the development of a middle class that could buy U.S. goods and boost our economy. 

March 25, 2010

China Trade Deficit Toll: 2.4 Million Jobs

Robert Scott of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) just came out with a terrific new study on the job losses that the U.S. economy has suffered because of the sky-high deficit with China.  It estimates that the rise in the deficit with China since it entered the WTO (2001) has displaced 2.4 million jobs.  

Between December 2007 (when the recession began) and February 2010, the U.S. economy lost 8.4 million jobs.  This means that if our deficit with China reverted back to its level in 2001 instead of being at its current level, the U.S. economy could generate about one-fourth of the jobs that it lost during the Great Recession.

What’s great about this study is that it estimates job losses in each congressional district.  Previous studies from EPI looked at deficit-induced job losses only down to the state level. With this study, Scott uses a different dataset that surveys millions of people per year, so there are enough respondents in each congressional district to get job loss estimates. Check out where your district ranks in job losses here (and here for an alphabetical listing).

Fortunately, there is a lot of movement in Congress to get China to allow its currency to appreciate against the U.S. dollar. Last Monday, 130 members of Congress, led by Representative Mike Michaud, sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke urging them to officially designate China as a currency manipulator in its April 15th report.  Yesterday, the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on China’s currency policy, its impact on the U.S. economy, and steps that the U.S. could take to press China to revalue it currency.  Most economists believe that China’s currency is undervalued by about 40 percent, making imports from China artificially cheap for the U.S. and U.S. goods more expensive in China.

March 02, 2010

Is There an Outbreak of Amnesia at USTR?

During the presidential campaign, Obama made it clear that he intended to renegotiate NAFTA to include enforceable environmental and labor rights provisions in the main text of the agreement.  The USTR’s 2010 Trade Policy Agenda, released yesterday, entirely lacked any plans to fulfill this crucial campaign promise.

When President Obama was campaigning for office, the only “r” verb he used on NAFTA was “renegotiate,” coupled with a friendly “opt out.” In contrast, USTR's report uses the verbs “review” and “recalibrate,” but then only to refer to actions they promised to take but still haven't taken. On NAFTA’s severe environmental and labor shortcomings, the report only stated that NAFTA’s central oversight body, comprised of officials from each country’s trade negotiating body, would “strengthen its relationship” with the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation and the North American Commission for Labor Cooperation, which are bodies established under NAFTA whose role is mostly limited to releasing reports about the labor and environmental effects of NAFTA. They have no enforcement capabilities, which Obama heavily criticized.

It’s not like Obama whispered his position on NAFTA to labor unions and environmentalists in private meetings.  He was loud and clear about his plan to renegotiate NAFTA, proclaiming it several times in the televised presidential debates.  In a January 2008 debate, he said that “it is absolutely true that NAFTA was a mistake.” Obama reminded us that his position on NAFTA has been consistent during a February 2008 debate:

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Obama, you did in 2004 talk to farmers and suggest that NAFTA had been helpful. The Associated Press today ran a story about NAFTA, saying that you have been consistently ambivalent towards the issue. Simple question: Will you, as president, say to Canada and Mexico, "This has not worked for us; we are out"? 

SEN. OBAMA: I will make sure that we renegotiate, in the same way that Senator Clinton talked about. And I think actually Senator Clinton's answer on this one is right. I think we should use the hammer of a potential opt-out as leverage to ensure that we actually get labor and environmental standards that are enforced. And that is not what has been happening so far.

That is something that I have been consistent about. I have to say, Tim, with respect to my position on this, when I ran for the United States Senate, the Chicago Tribune, which was adamantly pro-NAFTA, noted that, in their endorsement of me, they were endorsing me despite my strong opposition to NAFTA.

In the Democratic candidates’ debate in August 2007, Obama had a sense of urgency in his voice when he discussed his position on NAFTA:

Continue reading "Is There an Outbreak of Amnesia at USTR?" »

March 01, 2010

5,500 is Just the Beginning

Last Friday's rally and protest at the soon-to-close Whirlpool plant in Evansville, Indiana drew a massive crowd. Organizers said 5,500 protesters joined the day's actions against the corporate greediness of Whirlpool's - which just received $19 million in federal stimulus money for job creation! Protesters demanded Whirlpool reverse its plan to shift good 1,100 jobs to Mexico - a move facilitated by unfair trade deal-in-chief: NAFTA.

The AFL-CIO has already produced a short video of highlights from the actions:

And this is only the beginning. Imagine how workers in Evansville would react if the President tried to pass yet another NAFTA-type trade deal - like one with South Korea where the U.S. auto industry takes on it on the chin. Now imagine what happens if they tried to pass one with tax haven Panama or unionist murder capitol Colombia!

Clearly, U.S. workers, facing some of the hardest economic times in memory, won't stand idly by while their families' futures are washed down the drain by corporate greed and bad trade policy. That's why they're mobilizing behind the TRADE Act - the comprehensive trade reform bill - and pressuring to hold President Obama accountable to his campaign promises.

February 26, 2010

Fighting To Save Jobs in Evansville

Any minute now, the huge rally to save 1,100 good, family-supporting union manufacturing  jobs will begin. Brother Richard Trumka, president of the national AFL-CIO, will headline the event, along with other local labor and elected officials.

IUE CWA - Whirlpool
Trumka has and Oped in today's Evansville Courier & Press that shows the stakes:

After more than 50 years, Whirlpool is turning its back on Evansville — shipping hundreds of good local jobs to Mexico despite the company's healthy profits and millions of taxpayer dollars in federal economic stimulus money.

We need jobs. And we can't stop in Evansville.

We have to take the fight to every company that wants to cut out on America's workers, to the big banks that ruined our economy and to elected officials who refuse to stand up for working families.

When companies such as Whirlpool choose cheaper labor and lax environmental standards over America's workers, consumers and communities, we're going to let them know we won't stand for it.

There's a lot at stake, both nationally and here in Evansville.

Brother Trumka is right indeed. It's a national policy problem that requires a national policy solution. The fight is not just going on in Evansville, but in towns like Newton, Iowa and Galesburg, Illinois, and all throughout the country where good manufacturing jobs being are lost to lower wage countries like Mexico. Thanks to unfair policies like NAFTA, that's where the Whirlpool jobs will go thanks.

That's why we need to pass forward-looking reforms like the TRADE Act that allow for a sane manufacturing policy that creates good jobs right here in the U.S.

For more on the local buildup to today's rally, check out:

~ WFIE's coverage of the Whirlpool Corporation's threat letter to displaced workers who plan to participate in today's action, and ongoing protest preparations, or

~ The local Fox affiliate's continuing coverage of how the threat letter steeling the union's resolve, or

~ The Evansville Courier & Press Editorial expressing some limited solidarity with displaced workers marching against the 'recommendation' of their unfaithful boss:

Cobern [local Whirlpool manager] said in his letter that the decision to close the Evansville plant is final and will not be reconsidered....

In the meantime, allow these workers the freedom to express their frustration and disappointment at seeing their employer pack up for the trip to Mexico.

It has to hurt.

Hurt must barely begin to describe it. But here's hoping that pain will give way to anger at the unfair trade policies and corporate greed at the root of the problem/ Then that anger can transform into organizing to build another world in which the needs of normal hard-working women and men of the world come first!

February 25, 2010

Whirlpool: Taking Tax Dollars, Taking Jobs

It can barely get greedier than this: We're in tough economic times, so Whirlpool receives $19 million in taxpayer funds to create jobs. Then it turns around and announces it will shutter its Evansville, Indiana refrigerator plant and displace the 1,100 workers there. Disgusting.
WHIRLPOOL_8_2009
And where, you might ask, will those jobs go? They'll follow so many other lost family-supporting jobs on the NAFTA train to Mexico.

But workers are hoping to make the planned Evansville closing a turning point in the battle for American manufacturing, and are fighting to keep the plant open. The president of the national AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka, is scheduled to speak tomorrow at a major rally to keep plant open. Many hundreds are expected to join the demonstrations from across the region and the country.

The union representing the Whirlpool workers, IUE-CWA Local 808, is fighting fiercely. Financial Secretary of Local 808, Barbara Reich, lays it bare on evening news of the local Fox affiliate:

We need to bring to the attention of the American public when a so-called - in my opinion - American company gets American tax dollars, $19 million American tax dollars to create jobs, then they should not be taking existing American jobs to Mexico or China... We need those jobs right here in this community.

Sister Reich is right. It's a long shot that the plant will stay open, but workers are rallying to a higher cause. Under the influence of unfair NAFTA/WTO-style trade policies, manufacturing job loss has hobbled the country's economic prospects. Working people in Evansville are fighting not just to keep the plant open, but also to change the policies of "taking these jobs to other countries."

That's why solutions like the TRADE Act that correct our failed trade policies, are a crucial element of this fight. Indiana Representatives Visclosky, Donnelly, and Carson have endorsed the comprehensive reform legislation, but 8th District Rep. Brad Ellsworth, who is expected to speak at the rally and whose hometown is Evansville, has yet to sign on. Hopefully he'll see the light and join the growing reform consensus.

Mobilization and protest are another critical element of the fight. So tomorrow - Friday, February 26th - working families will assemble in Evansville to say, enough!

Continue reading "Whirlpool: Taking Tax Dollars, Taking Jobs" »

February 01, 2010

A Year After Implementation of Peru Free Trade Agreement, U.S. and Peru Left with Broken Promises, No New Trade Model

Public Citizen Report Details Decline in Peru’s Labor and Environmental Conditions

On the one-year anniversary of the implementation of the U.S.-Peru Free Trade Agreement (FTA), it has become clear that the hopes and predictions of proponents of the trade deal have failed to materialize, Public Citizen said today. Instead, as critics of the deal had feared, environmental and labor conditions in Peru have deteriorated rapidly since the congressional passage of the FTA in late 2007 and implementation in early 2009. In a brief report released today, Public Citizen outlines some of the broken promises and labor and environmental problems.

The Peru FTA text included several reforms with respect to labor and environmental standards relative to the normal Bush trade pact model, which was based on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). These changes were added following a May 2007 deal between the Bush administration and some congressional Democrats.Peru FTA protest

Despite the revised environmental language, the Peruvian government rolled back environmental protections existing prior to the FTA so as to implement the FTA’s foreign investor rights to access forestry, mining and other natural resource concessions. This included access to sensitive Amazonian territories over which indigenous communities had control under pre-FTA Peruvian law. In response to indigenous opposition, including road blocks in the remote northern Amazonia region of Bagua, the Peruvian government dispatched the military, and the resulting confrontation resulted in 34 fatalities – making the Peru FTA the first U.S. trade agreement to result in an immediate body count. 

Despite the revised labor language, in Peru today under the FTA, Peruvian employers can use subcontracting and outsourcing legal loopholes that greatly limit workers’ ability to unionize; child labor and forced labor continue unabated.

“The initial outcomes of the Peru FTA’s implementation demonstrate that major reforms remain to be undertaken if a new American trade agreement model is to be created that can deliver broad benefits to people in the countries involved while protecting the environment,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division.

Starting in 2008, the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Trade Subcommitee Chair Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) protested the Bush administration authorizing the FTA to go into effect despite the García administration failing to implement key labor and environmental reform commitments. A January 2009 letter from Rangel and Levin to Bush U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab noted that the García administration adopted new loopholes that could allow enhanced use of company subcontracting to crush unionization drives.

The Peruvian government’s true intentions became clear at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce victory event the
day the Peru FTA was signed into law, when Peruvian President Alan García told the audience of lobbyists for U.S. multinationals: “Come and open your factories in my country so we can sell your own products back to the U.S.” (U.S. Chamber Magazine, December 2007. Accessed July 13, 2009.)

Recent comments filed by unions and other civil society groups concerning the administration’s proposal to initiate Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement negotiations focus strongly on the need for major reforms to be made to the trade agreement model used for the Peru FTA. TPP talks, which would include Peru, would provide the Obama administration with the opportunity to implement the president’s trade reform campaign commitments that included the issues unaddressed in the May 2007 deal, and to replace the current damaging Peru FTA text with a new trade pact model.

Read the full report here.

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