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Trade Data Center Launched

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Today, we launched the Trade Data Center, a new tool for researching and illustrating the impacts of trade policy on local communities. It’s free and contains previously unavailable information that’s packaged in an easy-to-understand, customizable and user-friendly format.

Check it out!

Travis McArthur, our trade and finance researcher and lead Trade Data Center creator, put it best:

“Whether you are a seasoned trade hand or just beginning to look into globalization, or whether you are for or against fair trade, the Trade Data Center will have something for you. We hope that this will serve as a resource for journalists, policymakers, researchers, students – anyone with an interest in the impact of trade policy. It really is your one-stop-shop, and we’ll be updating it frequently with new features.”

You can read our press release here.

More about the new tools available through our Trade Data Center after the jump...

Through extensive Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), innovative computer algorithms and detailed information about contracts and siting of corporate headquarters, Public Citizen is able to make the following information available for the first time:

  • Trade-related job loss data that is mapped and searchable by congressional district, county, metro area, state, company name and more, as certified by the Department of Labor;
  • Information about foreign countries whose products caused these job losses;
  • Information about workers and companies that claimed trade-related job losses but that were denied adjustment assistance by the DOL; and
  • A map of the operations of multinational corporations in the eight countries that are currently negotiating a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Members of Congress and the public have requested that the Obama administration not include controversial North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)-style investor rights in this deal. If these rights are included, however, this map gives a sense of the sheer quantity and geographic reach of corporations that would be able to use these rights to attack public interest regulations in the U.S. and abroad.

The Trade Data Center also consolidates other trade data tools that Public Citizen has made available in the past. These include:

  • Comprehensive maps of corporations that could abuse the harmful investor rights under the Korea Free Trade Agreement (unless it is amended from the terms negotiated by the George W. Bush administration);
  • Directory and details of NAFTA investor attacks on environmental and public interest legislation in the U.S., Mexico and Canada;
  • Comprehensive congressional voting records on trade deals from 1990 to the present;
  • Trade policy positions and videos of more than 400 congressional and presidential candidates from the 2006 and 2008 elections; and
  • A database of current and proposed U.S. service sector commitments under the World Trade Organization agreements, with an explanation of their implications for environmental and public health policy.
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Peter G Cohen

WTO Creates Poverty in America
By Peter G Cohen

One in five families have suffered losses of more than 25% of their income. This is inescapably a moral issue. We cannot consider ourselves civilized -- never mind Judeo-Christian -- if the rest of us do not respond forcefully to the suffering of our fellow Americans. They have lost their jobs and often their homes, while corporate profits and executive salaries reach obscene levels.

The effect of this suffering is to threaten the very fabric of our society. Those who are still in their homes find they are worth less. Those who assist the poor are now facing overwhelming demands that they cannot fulfill. And the children! While we want everyone to reach their full potential, poverty is the surest way to deny that potential, both psychologically and in terms of decent medical care, good nutrition, stimulating child care, good education, and job opportunities. Poverty diminishes the future of America’s children and the nation itself.

Persistent Unemployment
There are two main factors in the loss of American jobs. One is the automation of many jobs with technology. Stores of all kinds have fewer salespeople; some markets ask you to check yourself out. We have all experienced frustration because telephones are answered by machines or answered by people who speak a foreign English. The greatest reason for job loss is the outsourcing of jobs to poorer nations with much lower wages and almost no environmental regulation.

It is common knowledge that worker income has stagnated while the cost of living and corporate profits are increasing. This is the result of sending jobs overseas. The jobs that remain are threatened by the possibility of being exported -- an excellent way to discourage union organizing.

The Role of the WTO
“The World Trade Organization is the international organization whose primary purpose is to open trade for the benefit of all.”-- From the statement of the WTO Director-General.

The ten benefits listed on the WTO’s own website, with our responses in italics are:

1. The system helps promote peace. This benefit is hard to find in today’s world.

2. Disputes are handled constructively. The WTO rules override local labor and environmental laws. Is that constructive?

3. Rules make life easier for all. Easier for corporations, worse for workers.

4. Freer trade cuts the costs of living. The U.S. cost of living adjustments are not noticeably less since WTO rules have been in effect.

5. It provides more choice of products and qualities. For us in the U.S. there is now little choice but to buy China-made goods.

6. Trade raises incomes. For corporations, maybe. For the millions of our unemployed, not at all.

7. Trade stimulates economic growth. We have a growing trade deficit and very little economic growth.

8. The basic principles make life more efficient. WTO has made profits easier for large, international corporations, but life is not more efficient.

9. Governments are shielded from lobbying. How we wish they were!

10. The system encourages good government. By enhancing corporate profits and weakening labor, the WTO has contributed to the congress listening to corporations and ignoring the voice of the people.

By their own promised benefits the WTO has failed the American people. Studies have shown that millions of U.S. jobs have been lost to off-shoring. In the process our technology has been shared with many Asian nations. Our trade deficit has soared as imports have increased. From 1995 to 2005 productivity grew by more than a third, while wages have remained stagnant. In 1965 U.S. CEOs in major companies earned 24 times more than the average worker. By 2005 this ratio grew to 262 times more. Recent studies have shown that this extreme inequality lowers the satisfaction of people in every income level. Our society is becoming increasingly frustrated and angry, which is dangerous for our democracy.

We Can Stop Exporting Jobs
It is unconscionable that this rich nation has one in five families suffering from extreme economic insecurity. Superficial fixes won’t do. We must change the policies that have robbed people of the opportunity to find work and as a result have diminished buying power in the American market and lowered the federal tax base.

The one thing that will bring entrepreneurs back into business is the assurance that they can compete with imports produced in developing nations. That assurance is called a tariff. We should immediately place tariffs on all imported goods in industries that have been hurt by the WTO agreements that encourage outsourcing. Of course big business and some economists will condemn tariffs, claiming that slowing trade will cause the world economy to collapse. It won’t. Nor will it immediately return our nation to prosperity. What it will do is enable American industries to compete with imported products, and that assurance will encourage reinvestment and new hiring of American workers.

It takes years for the WTO to bring charges against a nation that violates its rules.
So long as the WTO operates in secret and favors only international corporations, without regard for the labor and environmental aspects of free trade, the U.S. should not support or participate in it. The WTO has not produced the benefits that were promised in the mid 1990s and our poorest families are paying the price for the corporate profits it has generated. The needs of the American people are more important than the rules of top corporate executives.

Unfortunately, most economists look only at money without reference to other factors. We have passed peak oil with the result that shipping of foreign goods will become more expensive. Shipping products around the world adds to the pollution of the air and oceans. There is also a security dimension to maintaining our manufacturing ability. If the current trade disagreements between the U.S. and China were to escalate into a trade war, most Americans would soon be walking around barefoot. In the long run it is folly to outsource necessary products, if they reasonably can be produced in the U.S.

We are not facing the advances of a very dangerous enemy. Climate change and global heating must be taken into account in every decision. The Free Trade policies of the WTO will become increasingly self-defeating as global climate chaos destroys the food, water and industrial capabilities of many nations. We must become as self-reliant as possible, while creating jobs for our people.

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