US-Korea deal approved over heated opposition

After months of demonstrations and heated debate over the US-Korea trade deal, the Grand National Party called a plenary session and immediately voted on the bill before the opposition legislators could stop them. One lawmaker in particular tried to halt the vote by detonating a tear gas canister (read the details of the vote here). Still, the desperate attempt failed to detain the ruling party from passing the deal 151 to 7. As the New York Times reports,

In the 299-seat National Assembly, 170 members showed up for the vote Tuesday, most of them governing party lawmakers. The opposition members either voted against the bill or abstained.

Watch the video of the scuffle between the ruling party and the opposition:



The vote has prompted massive demonstrations in the street. Our allies in Korea reported that more than five thousand protesters occupied the streets in Seoul. The police aimed water cannons at them and arrested many activists.

Watch the video of the protest here:



Like many Americans who will hold their congressional leaders accountable for their vote on the trade deal, the Korean Alliance against KorUS FTA (KoA) and other opponents of the deal will be launching a campaign against the lawmakers who voted for the agreement in the next general election. The outrage in both countries yet again demonstrates the need to change the current unfair trade model that benefits the 1%.

Print Friendly and PDF

Showdown in Korea Over Trade Deal's Investor Provisions

Tensions in Korea are still mounting over the US-Korea trade deal. The agreement passed in the US Congress despite the vast majority of Democrats voting against the bill. Now all eyes turn to Korea as Korea’s Democratic Party opposition leaders and the ruling Grand National Party come to a standstill over the Investor-State Dispute clause in the trade pact.

While Korean corporate groups are pushing for speedy ratification of the trade pact, opposition is mounting over what the opposition party sees as a threat to its domestic laws. The Investor State Dispute clause has become a point of contention. The Korea FTA Industry Alliance claims, “It is necessary to protect the $21.7 billion that it has invested in the United States over the past 5 years.” Yet, the opposition party sees the investor state claims as an affront to Korean sovereignty and its ability to enforce domestic policies.

Public Citizen also raised the investor state dispute settlement clause as one of the fundamental flaws in the Korea deal. The Investor state clause would allow for Korean and US multinational investors to have disputes heard before foreign tribunals, despite the fact that both countries have strong domestic court systems. These clauses allow investors to be awarded taxpayer-funded cash compensation if environmental or health policies get in the way of their expected future profits.

In order to ease tensions, President Lee, in a rare move, addressed parliament and has agreed to renegotiate the investor state clause with the US three months after the agreement is ratified. The Democratic opposition party is not backing down and is echoing the sentiment of the thousands of daily protestors that have gathered in Seoul to protest the trade deal. Party spokesman Lee Yong Sup stated that the party will not agree to ratification of the FTA before the investor state clause is renegotiated.

Print Friendly and PDF

Songs of Protest Occupy APEC

While world leaders met inside well-secured hotels and facilities last weekend during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the streets of Waikiki were occupied with voices of dissent.

First, on Friday, union workers from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) went on strike against the phone company Hawaii TelCom. Striking workers protested against the company’s export of Hawaii jobs to Saipan and its demand to reduce crucial worker benefits.  The opportunity to demonstrate the connection to APEC and the current negotiations between the Trans-Pacific Free Trade Agreement (FTA) countries was not lost on workers and civil-society. IBEW and UNITE-HERE Local 5 sponsored a rally and teach-in on the FTA that was attended by labor groups, international allies and local activists. Hundreds poured in during the rally to denounce APEC’s conference of bankers, corporations and politicians and the secret negotiations seeking to expand a NAFTA of the pacific.

The following day many more protesters and Occupiers marched from Honolulu to the center of Waikiki chanting and voicing their opposition to APEC’s free trade talks. (Read more about the march here.) But the most creative outlet to decry the summit’s intent on corporatizing the world came from renowned Hawaii guitarists and singer Makana. The artist was invited to perform at an APEC gala held inside Hale Koa hotel. He surprised world leaders by not only wearing a t-shirt that read “Occupy with Aloha,” but also by singing protest ballad called “We are the Many.” Check out the performance below:


Read more about Makana occupying APEC here.

Print Friendly and PDF

Korean Public Still Resilient against US-Korea deal

After the trade deal with Korea was approved in Congress in mid-October, I received a message from one of our close Korean activists and member of the Korean Alliance against the KorUS FTA (KOA). He wrote: Now, it is our turn.

Grassroots activists, civil-society groups, and labor unions (all members of KOA) along with students, OccupySeoul, and dissenting politicians have lived up to their rhetoric. Against all odds, they have successfully delayed the vote on the trade deal using an array of political tactics and civil disobedience.

08095302_2
Last week, opposition National Assembly members from the Democratic Party and Democratic Labor Party occupied the hearing room of the foreign affairs committee, which must make a preliminary vote on the trade pact before it is voted on by National Assembly. In occupying the room, they prevented the committee from voting—sending a clear message of defiance to Korea’s ruling party and key FTA supporters.

On the ground, the Korean Alliance, students, and Occupiers have been holding mass demonstrations and daily candlelight vigils in the streets of Seoul. Several times they have marched in protest and have been confronted by police (see more pictures and videos here).

08094746_YJW_4280
On November 10th, a disturbing observation from KOA was sent to us, reporting, “At the protest held today near the National Assembly building, the policemen turned a water-cannon to shoot protesters. This caused one of the protester's eardrums to rupture. And 11 were arrested.” (See video here.) One of the protesters arrested is a member of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (the equivalent of the AFL-CIO) who visited Washington, DC earlier this year and spoke with members of Congress about the Korea trade deal’s economic impacts on the auto industry.

Although protesters are being confronted by police officials almost on daily basis, the Korean Alliance and other activists will continue to demonstrate. This weekend another mass protest will take place as plans for an international day of solidarity are currently in the works with Occupiers and other groups in the US.

Print Friendly and PDF

Japan Forces Down Value of Yen, Raising Concerns on Trans-Pacific FTA

Last week the Japanese central bank undertook the single largest intervention in its currency market since at least 1991 when it bought about $100 billion in U.S. dollars. The intervention was designed to push down the value of the yen, and it worked: the value of the yen fell five percent against the dollar, the largest single-day drop since the depths of the financial crisis in October 2008.

Even in ordinary times, this intervention would concern U.S. policy makers, as it will likely boost the U.S. trade deficit with Japan as Japanese imports become cheaper and U.S. exports to Japan rise in price. But now in particular it should give pause to policymakers since Japan has expressed interest in joining the Trans-Pacific Free Trade Agreement (FTA) talks. U.S. trade negotiators will be meeting with their counterparts from other countries to discuss the Trans-Pacific FTA during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit this weekend in Honolulu, and Japan's interest in joining is sure to come up. As of yet, there is no sign that the Trans-Pacific FTA will discipline currency manipulation, so the U.S. could end up signing a trade deal with a country that is willing to massively intervene in the currency market, leaving U.S. businesses and workers vulnerable to artificially cheap imports.

Japan has a long history of intervening in its currency market for trade advantage. According to the Congressional Research Service, Japan has intervened heavily in its currency market to hold down the value of the yen in the periods 1976-1978, 1985-1988, 1992-1996, and 1998-2004. During the last period of heavy intervention, stretching from 1998 to 2004, the Japanese yen was undervalued by about 20 percent, or about 600 percent greater than the average U.S. normal trade relations tariff of 3 percent. To put this into perspective, GM estimated that the undervaluation of the yen amounted to a subsidy on Japanese autos sold in the U.S. of about $3,000 per vehicle in 2003. This virtual exchange rate subsidy likely hurt sales of U.S.-made vehicles in the United States and cost jobs.

The latest estimates of the equilibrium yen exchange rate suggest that the yen is undervalued against the dollar by about 10 percent, contributing to the $60 billion U.S. trade deficit with Japan. And those estimates were developed before Japan initiated its latest round of currency intervention. Will U.S. policymakers blindly sign a trade deal with a country that manages its exchange rate for trade advantage, like they did with Korea? Or will they steer the Trans-Pacific FTA negotiations toward the 21st-century fair trade model that the Obama administration has promised?

Print Friendly and PDF

Sherrod Brown Tosses the Panama FTA

Well, not quite. But, man, that FTA text does look pretty heavy, and like it could put a hurtin' on some of the senators in the room that are against fair trade.

But here's a floor speech from fair trade champion Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) on the night the Senate voted on the Panama, Korea and Colombia trade deals. It's about 30 minutes, and a very eloquent description of why these trade deals are no longer primarily about "trade," but about how we regulate our domestic economy. Brown's TRADE Act would go a long way to getting "trade" policy right.

Print Friendly and PDF

Wallach and Tucker in American Prospect: Parties realign on flawed trade deals

Our own Lori Wallach and Todd Tucker have a piece in the American Prospect today. Here’s a snippet:

++
 
American Prospect logoAs he gears up for a difficult re-election campaign, President Obama risks losing key swing states that he won in 2008 because of a recent flip-flop on trade commitments…
 
Even the government’s own study, produced by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), showed that these pacts would increase U.S. imports by more than exports…
 
Instead of probing such matters, most mainstream press reports over the entire four-plus year debate simply parroted corporate and Obama-administration talking points.

The missed political storyline, too, was equally astounding. Two-thirds of Democratic House members opposed Obama on the Korea pact and 82 percent who opposed him on the Colombia pact. It's his biggest split with House Democrats thus far. The number who voted against the deal is even greater than the percentage of House Dems who opposed the Patriot Act (63 percent) or the war-funding bills (56 percent). And of course, Obama got nothing in return for the capitulation: Republicans advanced the trade pacts while blocking his second stimulus package. So much for negotiation.

It took Bill Clinton nearly eight years of NAFTA job losses, sellouts, and scandals to have about two-thirds of the House Democrats vote against China’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2000. Obama managed to meet and beat that record with his first trade votes. The percentage of Democratic House votes against these deals even surpassed Democrats’ average level of opposition to Republican presidents’ trade initiatives.

++
 
Click here for the full article.

Print Friendly and PDF

Trade Talks in Peru Meet Strong Opposition

As trade negotiators from the U.S. and eight other Pacific Rim countries met in Lima, Peru this week for Trans-Pacific Free Trade Agreement (FTA) talks, Peruvian and global activists criticized the continued secrecy of the talks and the public health implications of recently leaked texts on drug patents and pharmaceutical pricing.

Read Public Citizen's statement about the dangers of the leaked U.S. proposals.

And here's some television coverage from a leading Peruvian news network of a civil society rally outside the hotel where talks are taking place, featuring some of our Peruvian and international allies.

 

 

Print Friendly and PDF

Recently Revealed ‘Secrecy Pact’ for Trans-Pacific Trade Talks Belies Obama Administration Promises of Transparency in Trade

U.S. Groups Escalate Demands for Access to Trans-Pacific Trade Texts as Global Push for Transparency Builds on Eve of Talks

WASHINGTON, D.C. – After a leaked document revealed that the Obama administration signed a special pact to keep all documents relating to Trans-Pacific Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations secret, a broad array of U.S. groups – including Public Citizen – joined their global counterparts today in demanding an end to the secrecy surrounding the controversial negotiations.

Twenty-two U.S. labor, consumer, faith, environmental and human rights organizations – including the AFL-CIO, Sierra Club, Presbyterian Church (USA) and Public Citizen – sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk calling on the U.S. government to implement the administration’s transparency pledges, to take the lead in ending the recently revealed secrecy pact and to release Trans-Pacific FTA negotiating texts. Groups in other participating countries sent similar letters to their governments.

“The fact that negotiators have gone out of their way to execute a special secrecy agreement has made a lot of people wonder just what exactly they are so afraid the press, the public and Congress would see if there was openness,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “While executives from hundreds of corporations have been named ‘official trade advisors’ by the Obama administration and given access to the texts, the people whose lives would be most affected may never get to see what our negotiators are bargaining for – and bargaining away – until it’s all over.”

Trans-Pacific FTA talks have taken place behind closed doors, and none of the draft texts has been released despite President Barack Obama’s promises that the Trans-Pacific FTA will usher in a new era of transparency in trade agreement negotiations and result in a “high-standard, 21st century agreement.” Two-thirds of all House Democrats just voted against Obama on FTAs he submitted that had been negotiated in secret by the previous administration. A greater percentage of House Democrats opposed Obama on the passage of these trade pacts than on any other legislation since he took office.

“Given that texts are released by the World Trade Organization and other negotiating venues in which these countries participate – and after years of Obama administration pledges that its trade policymaking would be open and inclusive – it is really outrageous that they signed a special pact to keep the content of these talks that will affect so many peoples’ lives totally secret,” said Wallach.

Today’s letter comes after an effort earlier this year to obtain access to negotiating texts. Obama administration officials never responded to the past demands, which also were made by major Democratic base organizations. In February, scores of civil society groups in five of the nine countries involved in the negotiations launched a coordinated “release the text” campaign with letters to their trade ministries. Parliamentarians in some countries have become involved in combating the secrecy surrounding the talks. It was not until the September negotiating round in Chicago that negotiators admitted that in May 2010 they had signed a secrecy agreement that would keep all negotiating documents secret for four years after the talks conclude.

“With numerous negotiating texts now established in addition to the investment and financial services chapters, the relevance and urgency of our request has only increased,” the letter said.

Read the full letter, as well as other letters from the international campaign, here

###

Print Friendly and PDF

Vast Majority of Dems Abandon President, and Media Misses It

It's typically treated as pretty newsworthy when a majority of a president's own party votes against a signature presidential initiative. Double that when over two-thirds do so. Triple the newsworthiness when it's the first time that magnitude of opposition has occured in a president's tenure.

Quadruple for when talking heads are debating whether elected officials will carry the banner of a wide-ranging new progressive protest movement that has declared its independence from that same president. And quintuple when the president has presented a two-plank carrot-stick deal with Republicans - controversial trade deals that won't create jobs plus stimulus spending that will - and when the Republicans move forward with the job-killing plank. But the job-creating plank? Not so much.

This describes precisely what happened with last night's votes to expand NAFTA-style deals to Korea, Colombia and Panama. But you wouldn't know it from any of this morning's press coverage of the vote, which lauded the "bipartisanship" of a deal that was supported by only a tiny cohort of corporate Democrats.

This is deeply misguided, as Lori Wallach noted over at FireDogLake,

"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 (not even) two-thirds of the House Democrats vote against him on trade."

Obama managed to do the same in three, getting Democratic opposition nearly 20 percentage points higher than Clinton ever did.Over 82 percent of Democrats opposed the Colombia FTA, while over two-thirds opposed the Korea FTA and over 64 percent opposed the Panama FTA. Even a majority of the New Democrats - the most pro-NAFTA grouping in the party - opposed. These percentages go well beyond the previous high-water mark of House Dem revolt from the president (the February vote on the Patriot Act).

Why were Dems so opposed? The deals won't do anything to help the jobs crisis, and could make things worse. On top of that, they contain hundreds of pages of non-trade provisions that put obstacles in the way of re-regulation of Wall Street and environmental protection. Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine), a leading Blue Dog, lays out the analysis in this compelling speech that takes the White House to task.

Democrats' declaration of independence wasn't the only thing that was missed in the coverage. The media also missed the storyline of the Tea Party's abandoning of its principles. Candidate Rand Paul, for instance, railed against the WTO as as an intrusion on U.S. sovereignty. Countless House Tea Party candidates ran paid ads attacking job offshoring, helping them make key inroads among working class voters. Yet virtually the entirety of the Tea Party backed candidates sided with the president for job offshoring deals.

Indeed, there has always been several dozen Republicans who could be counted on to vote against unfair trade policy - even in super-close votes like Bush's push in 2005 for CAFTA, which passed by two votes. Fast forward to 2011, when ONLY SIX Republicans voted against the Panama FTA. This is a historic shift for a party who has always had a more trade-skeptical segment going back centuries.

These political shifts are likely to have major consequences in the upcoming elections. Many Democrats have - like the movement on the streets - declared their political independence. Will it be enough to make up for being down-ticket from a president who flip-flopped on his own campaign pledges to overhaul U.S. trade policy? The world will be watching.

(P.S. The media also was also mum that the president was misrepresenting the government's own studies on the likely economic impact of the deal. These studies, unlike similar studies for all earlier trade deals, showed an increase in the trade deficit. For virtually the entire four-year debate on the bills, the media mentioned only the projected export increase, without discussing the projected import increase. This was Very valuable political cover, but not particularly good reporting. But that's another story.)

Print Friendly and PDF

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)

Print Friendly and PDF

House Dems Take White House to Task

Check out this powerful speech by Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine), a fair trade champion, sayin' stuff that needs to be said:

 

Print Friendly and PDF

Livetweeting the Unfair Trade Pact Trifecta

Follow us on Twitter @pcgtw.Going on now!

Also, check out Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting's take on the press coverage around the FTAs, and Glenn Hurowitz over at HuffPost on the awful political calculus the adminstration made by taking up these deals.

Print Friendly and PDF

Obama Shifts Away From Jobs Message to Promote Bush-Signed Trade Pacts Projected by Official Government Studies to Increase Trade Deficit

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

It is bizarre that President Barack Obama has switched from his long-awaited focus on jobs to spending effort passing three George W. Bush-signed, NAFTA-style trade deals that official government studies show will increase our trade deficit even as polls show most Americans oppose NAFTA-style trade pacts and recognize that they kill American jobs.

The only way these deals will pass is if congressional GOP lawmakers expose themselves to the foreseeable election attack ads and provide President Obama almost all of the votes; most congressional Democrats will oppose these deals, which are loved by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and despised by the Democratic base groups.

Apparently, the Obama team has a way to win re-election that does not involve Ohio or other industrial swing states. We saw with NAFTA in 1993 the dire political consequences of a Democratic president blurring distinctions between the parties on this third-rail issue of trade and jobs. And unlike NAFTA, this time, even official government studies show that these pacts will increase our trade deficit.

Print Friendly and PDF

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.

Print Friendly and PDF

Lori Wallach on HuffPo: "Obama Flip-Flopped Off Trade Cliff"

Check out Lori Wallach's latest piece on the Huffington Post.

 

HuffPo logo

Obama Flip-Flopped Off Trade Cliff

"Apparently, Obama has a plan for winning re-election that does not involve Ohio... oh, and he is tired of talking about job CREATION..."

Read the entire piece at the Huffington Post.

Print Friendly and PDF

November Deadline for Obama’s First Trade Deal Falls Away as Controversies Roil Chicago Trans-Pacific Trade Talks

American Medical Assoc. Enters Fray Over Inclusion of Tobacco, Alcohol in Deal; Obama Administration Proposal Limiting Access to Medicines Stirs Fury

CHICAGO – A range of controversies, mostly on health issues, has emerged at negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in Chicago this week, such that the vaunted deadline to complete the deal – the November Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Hawaii – will not be met. And after this eighth round of negotiations, troubling signs are emerging that the Obama administration’s first trade deal could roll back initial reforms made on affordable access to medicines made during the last round of George W. Bush-era trade deals, Public Citizen said today.

“While the administration keeps touting this potential first Obama trade pact as a new 21st century model, and instead of implementing the many specific trade reforms President Obama pledged as a candidate to avoid more job loss and ensure import safety, it appears the administration is pushing for something like NAFTA on steroids with Vietnam and Malaysia,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

Growing controversy over the trade deal’s threats to domestic regulation of cigarettes and alcohol escalated when the American Medical Association (AMA) made its first foray into the trade debate, sending a letter on Sept. 8 to U.S. negotiators demanding that tobacco and alcohol be excluded from the pact. The AMA and other public health groups intensified their focus on trade talks after the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled recently that the U.S. ban on clove, cola and candy-flavored cigarettes in the 2009 legislation to combat youth smoking violated WTO requirements, and ordered the policy changed. This followed an attack by tobacco giant Philip Morris Asia against Australia’s proposed cigarette “plain packaging” rules using an international commercial agreement that follows on a similar assault by a Swiss Philip Morris unit on a similar Uruguayan law initiated last year. Both attacks use the “investor-state” private enforcement system the Obama administration is pushing for in the Trans-Pacific pact.

Meanwhile, various countries and U.S. health, consumer and development groups reacted with ire as the Obama administration sought to distract attention from a proposal it was submitting earlier this week to roll back Bush-era 2007 improvements for affordable medicines access by expanding trade pact patent rules. While the U.S. proposal was being submitted behind closed doors, a paper was released publicly announcing a U.S. “Trade Enhancing Access to Medicines (TEAM) initiative” that was advertised as revealing a new policy to increase access to medicines for consumers. In fact, this initiative simply repackaged many of the most problematic aspects of the long-standing, retrograde U.S. position on trade patent rules that restrict medicinal access.

“It is insulting that the Obama administration released this paper on ‘access to medicines’ on the same day that it put forth its most controversial and access-restricting provisions at the Trans-Pacific FTA negotiations,” said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines Program. “The U.S. intellectual property proposal rolls back even some of the few protections for access to medicines in the Bush-negotiated trade pacts. The administration is heading rapidly in the wrong direction, at the expense of global public health.”

The Obama administration’s attempts to roll back the “May 2007” reforms of trade pact patent rules relating to medicine access, its insistence over objections by Australia and other countries that private corporate “investor-state” enforcement be included, and its rejection of exclusions for any product from the deal is likely to add more dead weight to its efforts to pass pending Bush-negotiated trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. These deals were signed in 2007. After months of insisting votes would happen “within weeks,” it is increasingly likely that Congress could consider the deals in October. These three trade deals contain the same foreign investor rights and private enforcement used by Philip Morris to attack tobacco regulation in other countries.

“Obama folks always say that there just was not much they could do to fix the Bush-negotiated Korea, Colombia and Panama deals, but that when the new administration negotiated its own trade pacts, it would do them differently,” Wallach said. “Well, now they’re negotiating their own trade deal, and it’s looking like a Bush NAFTA-style deal in key respects – and even worse in some areas – and that only builds even more opposition to Obama’s call to pass Bush’s  old deals.”

Trans-Pacific FTA negotiations currently include Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. The next round of Trans-Pacific FTA negotiations will be held next month in Lima, Peru. No high-level negotiations will take place at the APEC summit in Hawaii in November.

Print Friendly and PDF

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" »

Print Friendly and PDF

Lori Wallach on HuffPo: "Trade Pacts Obama's Flacking in Jobs Plan Would Increase Trade Deficit Say Government Studies"

Check out Lori Wallach's latest piece on the Huffington Post.

 

HuffPo logo

Trade Pacts Obama's Flacking in Jobs Plan Would Increase Trade Deficit Say Government Studies

Everyone expects Obama's imminent jobs plan and related speeches to include a pitch to pass Bush's leftover Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with Korea, Colombia and Panama. ... Problem is, whatever one thinks about the idea of "free trade," the federal government's own studies predict that these three deals would increase the U.S. trade deficit. Higher deficits mean more jobs will be displaced by imports than are created by exports. This was a critical factoid largely missed by reporters covering Obama's speeches after the debt ceiling deal -- with many stories simply repeating Obama's claim that these FTAs were vote-ready job-creators for Congress to take up ASAP."

Read the entire piece at the Huffington Post to find out what you need to know about the trade aspects of Obama's jobs plan.

Print Friendly and PDF

U.S. measures to reduce teenage smoking deemed WTO violation

U.S. measures to reduce teenage smoking violate World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, according to a panel ruling released late last week. Indonesia successfully argued that the U.S. Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (FSPTCA) of 2009 violated WTO rules. The ruling opens the door to more teenage tobacco addiction, while further imperiling the legitimacy of a WTO that rules against environmental, health and other national policies 90 percent of the time.

The FSPTCA took a series of unprecedented and bold measures to combat teenage smoking, including Warning the banning of many forms of flavored cigarettes. There is substantial evidence that tobacco companies produce and market these cigarettes as "starter" or "trainer" cigarettes in order to hook teenagers into a lifetime of nicotine addiction.

However, as the U.S. noted in its defense in the WTO case, the U.S. did not ban all types of cigarettes. In particular, regular tobacco and menthol cigarettes were excluded from the ban. The justification for these exclusions was that, unlike candy flavored or clove cigarettes, large numbers of adults are also hooked on regular and menthol cigarettes. To abruptly pull these products out of the market could cause a strain on the U.S. healthcare system (as lifetime addicts would instantly seek medical treatment for wrenching withdrawal symptoms) and might lead to a rise in illicit black market sales and associated crime. Nonetheless, various studies were ordered on the feasibility of banning menthol cigarettes in the future.

The FSPTCA banned candy and clove cigarettes regardless of where they were produced or who produced them. But Indonesia successfully argued that, since its exporters are the primary providers of clove cigarettes to the U.S. market, the FSPTCA constituted de facto discrimination, in violation of WTO rules under the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT). The WTO panel accepted this argument, despite the fact that the FSPTCA was totally non-discriminatory and many U.S. cigarette makers (such as those that make cola-flavored cigarettes) were also blocked from making these harmful products.

This severe blow to consumer protection comes on the heels of two other WTO rulings against America's dolphin-safe tuna and beef country-of-origin labels, and are likely to put a significant damper on the Obama administration's efforts to pass trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama that contain similar anti-consumer rules.

More on the details of the case after the jump.

Continue reading "U.S. measures to reduce teenage smoking deemed WTO violation" »

Print Friendly and PDF

What You Need To Know About the Trans-Pacific FTA Negotiations in Chicago

Trade negotiators from throughout the Pacific Rim will be meeting in downtown Chicago from September 6–15 to negotiate a new Trans-Pacific Free Trade Agreement. Labor, environmental, public health, consumer and community advocates from Chicago and beyond will also be present to demand a “Fair Deal or No Deal.” 

This memo tells you what you need to know.

Print Friendly and PDF

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.

Print Friendly and PDF

Brookings FTA Paper Falls Short on the Facts

Last month, the Brookings Institution published a policy brief advocating for the passage of the Korea, Colombia and Panama trade deals (or FTAs). The policy brief contains little in the way of new research, but it certainly quotes existing research in a selective way.

Like the Obama administration, the policy brief incorrectly cites the U.S. International Trade Commission's (USITC) predictions for the change in exports to Colombia under the Colombia FTA as the increase in U.S. exports ($1,060 million), rather that prediction for the change in total U.S. exports under the FTA ($654 million). Moreover, the brief does not discuss the jobs implications of the fact that U.S. imports will increase more than exports under the Korea and Colombia trade deals. Since imports will increase more than exports, net job losses will likely result.

By now, this export mistake is familiar. What is new in the Brookings policy brief is it emphasizes the USITC's predicted change in nominal GDP under the FTAs. The policy brief says that the USITC predicts the Korea FTA will boost U.S. GDP by up to $12 billion and the Colombia FTA will boost GDP by $2.5 billion. (The USITC did not give a GDP estimate for the Panama FTA since the model that they used for that study could not estimate GDP changes.)

In reality, the numbers that the policy brief quotes are actually the USITC's estimates for changes in nominal GDP, i.e. changes in GDP that take into account price changes due to the FTAs. Basically, this is the number that is not adjusted for the inflation that occurs within the model. In a footnote to its $12 billion GDP estimate for the Korea deal, the USITC explains:

GDP here is defined as nominal GDP, which takes into account both the price and quantity changes of its components. Welfare, on the other hand, summarizes the real (i.e., exclusive of price effects) value of present and deferred consumption....Increases in the prices of consumption or investment will lead to an increase in GDP, but not in welfare.

In plain English, this means that the $12 billion figure cited in the policy brief is not the change in the quantity of goods and services produced by the U.S. economy. Rather, a separate measure called welfare represents this change in the real value of the economy that actually matters to businesses. Browsing through the tables (specifically, Table 2.1) in the report reveals that the USITC's estimate of the real increase in GDP under the Korea FTA is only $1.8-2.1 billion. Real GDP under the Colombia FTA is expected to increase by $419 million.

So, the predicted increase in GDP is smaller than claimed, but there's still an increase, and therefore we benefit, right? The truth is that the small predicted real GDP gains under the FTAs will not be enjoyed equally by everyone. The big economic issue with FTAs is that some of them may boost overall GDP slightly, but the gains go almost exclusively to corporations and those Americans who already have a lot of wealth. Meanwhile, the adjustment costs fall upon the middle and working classes, leading to net losses for them. Incidentally, the USITC's model simply assumes that adjustment costs don't exist. This distributional issue in trade policy is critical. Josh Bivens at EPI estimates that trade flows have increased income inequality in the U.S. by 7 percent, costing an average household $2,000 per year.

The policy brief also repeatedly claims that the U.S. is losing market share in Asia to its competitors. It argues that the Korea FTA will reverse this "trend."  This claim has scant evidence to back it up. As we pointed out in our latest Trade-ifact, U.S. exports to the Pacific region have grown 35 percent since 2005, while overall U.S. exports to the world have grown at a slower rate, 25 percent, over the same period.  And without FTAs the United States continues to edge out competitors, increasing its market share in most of the major Asian economies since 2005, including South Korea.

In a claim about the "benefits" of the Colombia FTA, the authors of the policy brief seem uninformed about the realities of Colombia’s rural economy. They write, "[The Colombia FTA] supports U.S. goals of helping Colombia reduce cocaine production by creating alternative economic opportunities for farmers." However, the Colombian Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs conducted a study of the effects of an FTA with the U.S. upon nine primary agricultural products and found that full liberalization would lead to a 35 percent decrease in employment in those sectors (see pages 162-163 of the study). The study said that with an FTA without agricultural protections, 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” (pg. 180). Thus, contrary to the claims of the policy brief, all evidence indicates that the FTA would reduce agricultural opportunities for farmers, possibly increasing cocaine production.

Print Friendly and PDF

Unlike Budget Debate, Basic Math Error on Trade Continues to Go Unchallenged

The Obama administration spent much energy over the weekend attempting to discredit Standard & Poor’s credit rating agency’s downgrade of U.S. debt, which they said was based on a “basic math error of significant consequence.”

In sum, the administration argued that S&P applied the Budget Control Act’s deficit reduction dollar amount of $2.1 trillion to a non-inflation adjusted baseline scenario, when that number was derived from a scenario where discretionary spending levels grew with nominal GDP. In 2021, government debt as a share of GDP would be 93 percent under S&P’s original methodology, while it would be 85 percent under what Treasury maintains is the correct methodology. This claim of an error has been all over the press for days.

It would sure be nice if the Treasury and press got as worked up about basic math errors that the White House itself is making on the three pending trade deals with Korea, Colombia and Panama.

The administration maintains that the Korea deal will boost U.S. exports by $11 billion, when in fact the administration’s own numbers within the U.S. International Trade Commission study show that the deal will lead to a decline in net exports of about $416 million. The S&P’s debt number overstated the debt by about nine percent, but the administration’s claim of exports under the Korea deal overstates the magnitude of the change in the trade balance by 25,000 percent, in addition to getting the direction of the change wrong. If, as the Treasury Department says, the S&P debt error was “of significant consequence,” the administration’s trade-deal export claims must qualify as a misstatement of colossal consequence.

Similarly, the administration says that U.S. exports will increase by $1 billion under the Colombia deal, when the administration’s own numbers show that net exports will take a $66 million hit under the deal. (No estimates have been provided for the U.S.-Panama deal.)

Why these discrepancies? In its public statements, the administration is selectively looking only at one side of the ledger, extracting a number for bilateral exports, while not accounting for the overall change (the change in exports minus imports under the deal). In budget economics, this would be akin to looking only at what the government is taking in as revenue, without looking at what the government is spending. If the government simply assumed away any government spending, I’m betting that the press would call them on this “basic math error of significant consequence.”

The administration is also selectively looking at just the change in U.S. exports to Korea and Colombia under the pacts. But as the administration’s own reports show, these deals will also induce changes in trade patterns with other countries. At the end of the day, the U.S. is projected to be importing more than it is exporting as a result of these deals.

It is newsworthy that the administration’s own reports (produced by the USITC) conclude that net exports will decline under the deal, especially since their primary public rationale for the deals is that exports will increase. These USITC reports in the past have tended to be wildly optimistic, such as underestimating the increase in the U.S.-China trade deficit after China entered the World Trade Organization by $166 billion. But, the reports have nonetheless always concluded that, even if bilateral deficits increase, the global U.S. balance will improve. That is, until the reports on the three pending deals, and the deal with Peru (negotiations on all four were concluded in 2007), predicted a worsening of the overall balance.

This fact was even trumpeted by no less of a champion of NAFTA-style deals than Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who said that the total net export number is the “the one number that is of significance to our economic health.” (See full quote below, after the jump.)

It is unclear why the press continues to report as fact (or unchallenged assertion) the claim that the pending trade pacts will create jobs. These claims rely on using the wrong trade numbers from the government’s own study. Unlike many complex economic debates, all these numbers are publicly available, very straightforward and involve reading no more than two pages in two reports to simply verify the administration’s claims (pages 2-14 and 2-15 of the Korea report and pages G-12 and G-13 of the Colombia report). Moreover, the administration’s basic math error has been known for over nine months, and communicated to reporters and their editors repeatedly over that time (see “Survey of Studies on Potential Economic Effects of the Korea FTA Show Rising Deficits and Job Losses”,  “Survey of Studies on Potential U.S. Economic Effects of Korea Trade Deal Shows Rising Deficits and Job Losses, 2010 ‘Supplemental Deal’ Does Not Alter These Outcomes”, “Guide to the the State of the Union on Jobs, Exports”, “Previewing Ways and Means Chair Camp’s Request for USITC Analysis of the December 2010 Korea FTA Supplemental Auto Deal”, “The Korea FTA is Lose-Lose for the U.S. and Korea: The Facts”, “Here’s an Impediment to Job Creation That Ways and Means Hearing Should Discuss: Korea Trade Deal Is Projected to Increase the Overall U.S. Trade Deficit”.

Reporters can and should quote advocates of these trade deals, and explore their reasoning for wanting Congress to pass them. But, to the extent that job and export claims are based on the administration’s basic math errors, this needs to be pointed out in reporting.

(For what it’s worth, there is also no historical support for the notion that NAFTA-style deals increase exports in relative terms. This would also cast doubts on the administration’s stated rationale for pushing the agreements. However, one would not even have to examine the record to report that the administration is misrepresenting its own research.)

Continue reading "Unlike Budget Debate, Basic Math Error on Trade Continues to Go Unchallenged" »

Print Friendly and PDF

Incorrect Numbers Continue to Pop Up in Trade Reporting: Trade-ifact III

The announcement late Wednesday of a nebulous "agreement" in the Senate on a legislative "path forward" for the Korea, Colombia, and Panama trade deals (or FTAs), has renewed the trade chatter in the newswires. But we're still seeing a lot of questionable claims about the FTAs in these stories, so it's time for another edition of Trade-ifact.

For the third installment , we've organized the stories by theme.

 

Faulty Export Numbers

Misquotes of the official U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) studies of the three trade deals continue to pop up in news articles, either directly or through quotes of FTA proponents.

As we have said before, FTA supporters only look at the USITC's bilateral export numbers and do not consider the USITC's projections on the change in overall U.S. imports. When the global changes in exports and imports are taken into account, the USITC studies reveal that net exports would decline by $482 million under the Korea and Colombia trade deals (instead of the “bilateral exports only” of $11-12 billion). The USITC made no overall trade estimate for Panama.) 

There were several stories that misreported this $12 billion export number as fact, including:

- Doug Palmer (Reuters), US Congress leaders agree path to pass trade deals (8/3/2011)

- Angus Loten (Wall Street Journal),  Trade Pacts Urged for Export Growth (7/27/2011)

There were several additional stories that reported the incorrect number as the opinion of an interviewee or the Obama administration, but failed to note its misleading origin. These included:

- Mark Drajem (Bloomberg), U.S. Senate Leaders End Impasse on Three Free-Trade Deals, Workers’ Aid (8/4/2011)

- Jim Abrams (AP),  Senate deal on taking up worker, trade bills (8/4/2011)

- Suzy Khimm (Washington Post),  How can Washington help create jobs? (8/3/2011)

- Doug Palmer (Reuters), U.S. business hopes debt deal clears way for trade (8/1/2011)

Doug Palmer’s stories also round up the administration's export claims from $12 billion to $13 billion.

 

Faulty Jobs Numbers

News stories are also continuing to report that the trade deals will create or support 70,000 jobs. This has got to be one of the most popular outright errors in the history of trade debates. As we show here, it is derived from applying an incorrect methodology to an incorrect number (bilateral export projection). But even if one accepts the administration’s methodological choices, applying that method to the correct number (net exports) would reveal a decline in jobs.

Doug Palmer's US Congress leaders agree path to pass trade deals (8/3/2011) misreported this number as fact.

There were several additional stories that reported the incorrect number as the opinion of an interviewee, but failed to note its misleading origin. These included:

Continue reading "Incorrect Numbers Continue to Pop Up in Trade Reporting: Trade-ifact III" »

Print Friendly and PDF

North Korean dictatorship poised to benefit from trade pact: Huffington Post

A new reporting and video series has been launched by Zach Carter and company over at the Huffington Post that will explore how the Korea trade deal will benefit the North Korean dictatorship.

As Carter writes,

In 2004, Hyundai inked one of the best land deals in history. For a mere $12 million, the South Korean car company secured the rights to 50 years of use on over 41,000 square miles of industrial space -- $292 per square mile, only about 10 percent higher than the rate the U.S. paid France under the Louisiana Purchase.

For a manufacturing giant, the Hyundai deal was a dream: plenty of space for factories, room for worker housing and a population that would work for less than half the wages that Hyundai was accustomed to paying for labor in its Chinese factories.

Products made In this sweatshop, finds Carter, can be incorporated into goods assembled in South Korea, and then shipped to the U.S. duty-free under the U.S.-South Korea trade deal. If the U.S. attempted to block it, South Korea could use trade pact rights to challenge the U.S.

Future installments will look at tax haven abuses in Panama and labor murders in Colombia, and how the package of three trade deals being pushed by the administration could make these matters worse.

Print Friendly and PDF

Pelosi pushes back against Obama-backed unfair trade agreements

The Hill reports that:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi pushed back Wednesday against several pending free-trade agreements championed by President Obama.

The California Democrat signaled doubts that looming trade deals with South Korea, Panama and Colombia would benefit U.S. workers. President Obama on Tuesday called on Congress to approve the deals, which he and Republicans argue would create jobs.

“The White House may support it, but the Congress may have a different view,” Pelosi warned on MSNBC.

During a lengthy interview, MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell suggested that the long-delayed trade pacts “could have produced more jobs.”

Pelosi responded, “Well, that's debatable.”

Unlike Mitchell and too many other reporters, Pelosi may have examined the government's own numbers, which show that the U.S.-Korea and U.S.-Colombia deals will increase the U.S. trade deficit. Or she may have examined the record of past trade deals, which have led to loss of U.S. jobs, and accounted for lower-than-average export growth.

Or she may have examined the text of the U.S.-Panama trade pact, which effectively excludes the Panama Canal expansion project from its scope. (See here, page 17.) That project is the one commercially meaningful piece of business happening in that economy, which specializes in offshore tax evasion. It will give Panama new tools to attack U.S. financial transparency initiatives, just as they've used trade pact rules in the past to successfully attack Colombia's (all too scarce) attempts to address money laundering.

And all three pacts will allow corporations to challenge environmental and public health initiatives, in foreign tribunals, outside the U.S. court system, for taxpayer funded compensation. These investor rules wreak havoc wherever they go.

Congrats to Pelosi for standing up for jobs instead of corporate/ideological initiatives like the three unfair trade deals.

Print Friendly and PDF

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.)

 

Print Friendly and PDF

Trade-ifact Part Deux

It's time for the second installment of Trade-ifact: Keeping the Media Honest about Trade Deals. Since our last installment, FTA proponents in the administration and Congress have worked to move along the negotiations for curtailing Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), all while maintaining a straight face when claiming that these trade pacts will create jobs. Late yesterday, White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley said that they would submit the FTAs for Congressional approval within days, so next week expect the FTA debate to turn white-hot (and a wave of questionable claims to reach tidal wave heights).

Doug Palmer (Reuters)

US showdown looming on Korea trade without deal soon (7/10/2011)

Palmer writes, "A year ago, Obama moved to resolve Democratic concerns with the deals." Democratic concerns with the three FTAs remain unresolved. Despite small tweaks to the auto provisions in the Korea FTA, imports of Korean autos are still projected to slam U.S. autoworkers. Plus, nothing was done to address the Korea FTA's prohibitions on certain vital financial sector regulations. Murders of labor union leaders in Colombia continue, and many Democrats are vowing to oppose the Colombia FTA as a result. Finally, Panama's status as a tax haven will remain unchanged if the Panama FTA is approved. The FTA's investor-state provisions would even allow the Panamanian government and corporations to challenge U.S. policies targeting tax havens. Overall, there has been no fundamental change to the NAFTA trade model that Obama promised while he was a presidential candidate.

Palmer claims that Fast Track trade negotiating authority "has long been considered vital for securing trade deals with U.S. trading partners worried that without it their agreements could be picked apart by Congress."  As noted in our book on the history of Fast Track, scores of trade agreements have passed Congress without Fast Track protection, including 130 trade and investment agreements under the Clinton administration alone (Clinton lacked Fast Track authority from 1995 to the end of his second term). In 2000, former Clinton U.S. Trade Representative went as far as to say, "if you look at our record on trade since 1995, I don't think the lack of Fast Track impeded our ability to achieve our major trade goals."

Obama said ready to move on South Korea trade bill (7/14/2011)

Palmer says that Obama demands an "extension" of TAA be approved along with the three FTAs. The Obama administration's proposal on TAA is actually to narrow eligibility and cut benefits. As Inside U.S. Trade reports, under the new TAA plan workers displaced by trade could receive a maximum of 130 weeks of income support while undergoing retraining, while currently workers can receive up to 153 weeks of income support. It also would restrict income support eligibility for workers who are not in retraining programs, cutting the types of waivers for income support from six to three. Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Republican Rep. Dave Camp, said of the deal, "The final result is a program that has been cut not only from 2009 levels, but also below 2002 levels in several key areas." The "2009 levels" are the elements of the TAA program that expired earlier this year, while the 2002 levels are the elements that are currently in effect. The cuts are a burden on displaced workers when they can least afford it.

Vicki Needham (The Hill)

Republicans split on trade tactics (7/13/2011)

Continue reading "Trade-ifact Part Deux" »

Print Friendly and PDF

Launch of Trade-ifact: Keeping the Media Honest about Trade Deals

Now that the House Ways & Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee have held mock markups of the Korea, Colombia, and Panama FTAs, we could see votes on the FTAs very soon. One of the major unknowns at this point is whether trade adjustment assistance (TAA, or aid to trade-displaced workers) will be included in the implementing legislation for one of the FTAs. Earlier in the debate, President Obama appeared to have secured an agreement from Republicans to allow TAA to move forward – now, things seem less sure.

Now, more than ever, it’s important that Congress and the public be well informed about the likely impact of these deals, which are modeled on NAFTA.

Unfortunately, there has been too little reporting on the deals, and even less that is accurate and balanced. In the interests of accurate reporting, we're launching a new feature on the blog: Trade-ifact. (Think Politifact, but for Trade.)

We will highlight instances where reporters have gotten the facts wrong on the FTAs, starting with a roundup of the reporting of the last two weeks. We'll blog periodically about this accuracy-in-FTA-reporting issue as more FTA stories with errors are published.

The main factual errors that we have found time and again are:
- Misquoting export projections and quoting export  and jobs projections without a discussion of the likely import increases and job losses. This is like looking at your family’s budget, but only looking at your paycheck, and not what you owe. Like too many of our households, our nation buys more than it makes, resulting in a massive trade deficit. Reporters should be getting this right, and examining the likely impact of our trade policy on the deficit.

Continue reading "Launch of Trade-ifact: Keeping the Media Honest about Trade Deals" »

Print Friendly and PDF

Liveblogging dueling congressional hearings on 3 NAFTA deals

President Obama has decided to introduce NAFTA-style deals with Panama, Colombia and Korea to Congress, bowing to pressure from corporations and Republicans.

Recognizing that the deals would cost jobs, the administration also agreed with House Republicans to cut (but partially renew) trade adjustment assistance (TAA) for workers displaced by trade.

Republicans, after getting what they want, are now threatening to block or muddle the push on the FTAs, because TAA was not cut enough, or out of concerns that pairing TAA with the FTAs backs up the notion that trade deals cost jobs. Well, yes.

The three deals will be considered under Fast Track trade promotion authority, which means that normal congressional procedures and debate are suspended. As we state in our book on the topic:

Core Aspects of Fast Track Trade-Authority Delegation

  • Allowed the executive branch to select countries for, set the substance of, negotiate and then sign trade agreements – all before Congress had a vote on the matter.
  • Required the executive branch to notify Congress 90 calendar days before signing and entering into an agreement.127
  • Empowered the executive branch to write lengthy implementing legislation for each pact on its own, without committee mark ups. That is to say, the process circumvented normal congressional processes. These executive-authored bills altered wide swaths of U.S. law to conform domestic policy to each agreement's requirements, and formally adopted the agreement texts as U.S. law. As a concession to congressional decorum, the executive branch agreed to participate in "non" or "mock" hearings and markups of the legislation by the trade committees. However, this is a practice, not a requirement.

Today, we will attempting to live-blog the simultaneous mock markups in the Senate Finance and House Ways & Means Committees. I'll be focusing on the latter. [My comments will be in brackets; unless noted by quotes, all notes are paraphrased from actual statements.]

++

Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.): We obtained significant reductions in TAA. But the agreement was on substance, not process.

[See statement here. Camp has a key misrepresentation in his opening statement:

"The three trade agreements are a sure-fire way to create American jobs by growing U.S. exports of goods and services – and they do not require one dime of new government spending.  The independent U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that the three pending trade agreements together would increase U.S. exports by at least $13 billion.  These agreements will create and support jobs here in the United States – 250,000 jobs, using the President’s own measure."

This is a serious misrepresentation. In fact, consistent use of this methodology here would show a job loss from the trade deals, not a job gain.

And it's misleading to suggest that these deals don't cost money. In fact, as the Congressional Budget Office estimates have shown, the U.S. government will lose billions in tariff revenue from implementing the deals.

Korea FTA itself: $7,355 million over 2011-2021

Colombia FTA itself: $1,400 million over 2011-2021

Panama FTA itself: $6 million over 2011-2021]

++

Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-Mich.): Urging a "no" vote on mock markup of the 3 FTAs if his amendment to include TAA is not included. Is asking for a certification to be required that Colombia has met its action plan requirements before the agreement enters into force. Urging a no vote if this amendment to require certification fails.

[This Action Plan fails to accomplish the most important labor rights objective: requiring an end to unionist killings on the ground. It also falls far short of the extensive benchmarks laid out by Democratic labor rights leaders.]

Continue reading "Liveblogging dueling congressional hearings on 3 NAFTA deals" »

Print Friendly and PDF

Breaking: GOP Boycotts Mark-Up of NAFTA Deals

At 3 pm today, the Senate Finance Committee was supposed to hold an "un-mark-up" of the implementing legislation for the three NAFTA-style deals.(For the background on this arcane Fast Track procedure, see our book here.)

But all the Republicans on the Committee boycotted the hearing, so Chairman Max Baucus (D-Montana) called it off.

They objected to the inclusion of any trade adjustment assistance (TAA) in the Korea FTA, on fiscal austerity grounds. Or, as Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah),

"Unions and other anti-trade zealots gleefully use TAA data to make the case that trade causes outsourcing and job loss... Instead of helping build the case for trade, TAA certifications are used to show that trade is bad.  In the end TAA really is just a government subsidy for anti-trade propaganda."

Yes, reality is so uncooperative with corporate spin sometimes!

Not that the administration's stance is much more coherent. As our own Lori Wallach told Politico,

“For most Americans, what’s newsworthy is not that the administration is pushing Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), which effectively is a job burial insurance program, but that pushing a deal on TAA is being used as political cover to move more NAFTA-style trade agreements that will kill more American jobs in the first place, especially given our high unemployment rates.” Wallach added. “The point that’s gotten lost in all this wrangling over TAA is that the three leftover Bush trade deals are bad in and of themselves.”

It's unclear what comes next. Senators had lined up a raft of amendments to the FTAs, on everything from restricting abortion rights to restroring the TAA health care credit funding that the Obama administration had agreed to reduce from current levels. There's still time to shelve the deals, reverse course, and actually have Obama make good on his commitments to truly overhaul our failed trade policy. We'll be watching, and out in the streets over this Fourth of July weekend around the country.

Print Friendly and PDF

Obama Edges Closer to Political Cliff With Deal to Combine Program to Aid Workers Losing Jobs to Trade With Three Bush-Era NAFTA-Style Trade Pacts Projected to Cause More Job Loss

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

Given that polls show most Americans oppose more NAFTA-style trade pacts because they are job-killers, announcing that three more such agreements are ready to move only because a program to assist workers losing jobs to bad trade deals also can be extended will probably not surprise many Americans, but it sure will make them mad.

For most Americans, what’s newsworthy is not that the administration is pushing Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), which effectively is a job burial insurance program, but that pushing a deal on TAA is being used as political cover to move more NAFTA-style trade agreements that will kill more American jobs in the first place, especially given our high unemployment rates.

Poll after poll shows that the vast majority of the American public – across stunningly diverse demographics – is opposed to NAFTA-style trade deals and that members of Congress vote for them at their peril. Earlier this month, White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, whose job is to sell these trade deals and who helped former President Bill Clinton sell NAFTA to a skeptical Congress, recognized that workers “lose from these agreements” and implied that campaigning against FTAs could even be an electoral advantage. (The Washington Post, “White House’s Daley seeks balance in outreach meeting with manufacturers,” June 16, 2011.)

The point that’s gotten lost in all this wrangling over TAA is that the three leftover Bush trade deals are bad in and of themselves. Even an official government study finds that the Korea deal will increase our trade deficit, and we know up front that it will kill jobs and undermine our national security. The Colombia deal will eliminate any leverage the U.S. has to combat the forced displacements and murders of unionists, Afro-Colombians, human rights defenders and others – problems that have gotten worse since this deal was signed in 2007. The Panama deal will make it harder for the U.S. government to penalize tax-dodging multinational corporations. The supplemental deal on autos for Korea, the labor “Action Plan” for Colombia, and the tax information exchange agreement for Panama are all toothless and do nothing to alleviate the aforementioned problems, as Public Citizen has extensively documented. They were all part of a political-cover kabuki dance.

Moreover, the fact remains that all three deals have the same damaging provisions we all remember from NAFTA: limits on financial services regulation, foreign investor privileges that promote offshoring, weak labor standards, limits on imported food safety and inspection, and the ridiculous private investor-state enforcement system that empowers multinational corporations to go around our domestic courts and directly challenge our state and federal laws before foreign tribunals and demand compensation from our tax dollars for claimed violations of the trade deal.

Print Friendly and PDF

FTA Stalled in Korean Legislature Amid Financial Deregulation Concerns

Song Min-soon As the fight against the Korea, Colombia, and Panama FTAs heats up with the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce launching dueling media campaigns, the Korea FTA fight on the other side of the Pacific continues to simmer.

The Korean National Assembly has not yet ratified the Korea FTA, and both the U.S. and Korea must approve the pact for it to go into effect. Although the pro-FTA Grand National Party currently has a majority in the Korean National Assembly, lawmakers are reluctant to bring such a controversial issue to a vote before their national elections in April for fear of provoking voters' ire. A pro-FTA legislator acknowledged that "It could already be too late" for the vote to occur before April. If they wait until after April to hold a vote, they may never get a chance, at least with the FTA in its current form, as the main Korean opposition party, the Democratic Party, opposes the FTA and could retake the majority in the National Assembly.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, senior Democratic Party lawmaker Song Min-soon discussed his party's opposition to the FTA. He zeroed in on the need to eliminate the strict provisions of the FTA that prohibit Korea (and the United States) from implementing a range of prudential financial services regulations, including capital controls:

[Mr. Song] says that South Korea should try to change the financial services portion of the pact to ensure that, should another financial crisis spur an outflow of capital as happened in 2008, Seoul has a full arsenal of measures to counter-act the effects.

As it stands now, Mr. Song says, the FTA may put some practical limits on measures South Korea may want to use to prevent an outflow of capital and a related weakening of the Korean won. To be sure, he says, it’s a fine line because the FTA does not “theoretically” stop South Korea from doing what it needs to do to protect the won. “But practically, it’s almost prevented,” he says.

Mr. Song has good reason to be worried about the Korea FTA tying his government's hand when it comes to regulating the flow of capital into and out of the country. He lived through the 1997 Asian financial crisis, which was precipitated by the uncontrolled flow of "hot money" into and out of national economies. Indeed, Asian countries that chose to implement capital controls faired better in the crisis than countries that stuck to complete financial liberalization. The threat to the stability of both the U.S. and Korean economies is yet one reason why Congress should reject the Korea FTA if and when the Obama administration submits it for approval.

For a detailed discussion of how the Korea FTA bans many types of financial sector regulations, check out our talking points on the subject.

Print Friendly and PDF

The Korea Trade Deal Horror Show

 

Watch and share this original Global Trade Watch production about the Korea trade deal. To take action, visit: http://bit.ly/meCLGp.

 

Print Friendly and PDF

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

Print Friendly and PDF

FTA Investors Rules Not Fixed by Preamble Change from 2007

As EOT regulars know, NAFTA-style trade deals contain investment rules that allow corporations to bypass national legal systems and launch attacks on governments in international tribunals. The basis for these attacks can be as simple as institution of a new environmental policy that affects the corporation’s expected future profits. Judges for these so-called “investor-state” cases are selected in part by the corporation, and the trade-pact rules are tailored to corporate demands. Often the mere threat of one of these investor-state awards can cast a chill on public-interest regulation.  All told, more than $350 million has been paid to date in these cases.  Moreover, there are over $9.1 billion in claims in the 13 investor-state cases outstanding under NAFTA-style deals, relating to environmental, public health, and transportation policy.  An additional $483 million has been awarded under U.S. Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs), which contain similar investment rules. Billions of dollars are also pending in BIT cases now underway.

The Panama, Colombia and Korea “free trade agreements” (FTA) may be considered by Congress in the near future. These pacts constain investment rules that are almost identical to those in NAFTA, except where they are worse. There was one investment-related addition made to the preambles of these FTAs as part of a May 10, 2007 deal with the Bush administration. It stated that the parties: “AGREE that foreign investors are not hereby accorded greater substantive rights with respect to investment protections than domestic investors under domestic law where, as in the United States, protections of investor rights under domestic law equal or exceed those set forth in this Agreement.…”

Some have suggested that this provision goes all or most of the way towards resolving the concerns with these provisions. This is not the case. There is no certainty as to the legal meaning of the May 2007 preambular provision.

Public Citizen has just published a memo that examines six different approaches to preambular language, including the four that have been taken by the tribunals under the 45 final awards issued under U.S. FTAs and BITs.

The memo finds the May 2007 preambular modification fails to address the main concerns raised by scholars and members of Congress with regard to the investment provisions. Indeed, there is scant historical support for the notion that pro-public interest provisions of preambles are protective of regulatory prerogatives: nearly 90 percent of the time, tribunals have given them no weight at all. The remainder of the time,tribunals found that pro-public interest provisions had to be balanced against, and possibly watered down by, pro-investor provisions.

Deeper changes will be required to the investment provisions of the proposed FTAs with Korea, Panama and Colombia, as well as a Trans-Pacific FTA (which includes Peru, the U.S. and eight other countries) now under negotiation. 

To read the memo, go here.

Print Friendly and PDF

Obama Administration’s Dr. Jekyll Jobs and Mr. Hyde Trade Policy Schizophrenia

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

Whether schizophrenic or cynical, the reality is that we have the Dr. Jekyll administration saying that we need to boost manufacturing jobs while the Mr. Hyde administration is about to submit to Congress the U.S-Korea Free Trade Agreement, which  government studies show will slam seven key U.S. manufacturing sectors. (See chart below for the U.S. International Trade Commission’s [USITC] projections of losing U.S. manufacturing sectors if the Korea trade deal were to go into effect, available on Table 2.3 of the study.)

USITC Estimates of U.S. Industrial Sectors That Would Face Declining Trade Balances if the Korea FTA Is Implemented

 

Change in U.S. global trade balance (millions of dollars)

 

Low

High

Motor vehicles and parts

($531)

($708)

Other transportation equipment

($340)

($293)

Electronic equipment

($790)

($762)

Metal products

($169)

($187)

Textiles

($169)

($190)

Apparel

($56)

($74)

Iron-containing metals

($65)

($75)

The U.S. government’s own study of the Korea trade pact projects an overall increase in the U.S. trade deficit and identifies seven major industrial sectors that will be hardest hit if the deal, which was signed by former President George W. Bush and is based on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), is implemented. This includes the “jobs of the future” in manufacturing related to solar, high speed trains, computers and more.

Today, the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness called for rebuilding American manufacturing while President Barack Obama visited a high-tech manufacturer, even as the Obama administration is expected to submit a trade deal to Congress that we know will hurt our manufacturing sector. That is worse than ironic; it is destructive.

### 

PDF


Print Friendly and PDF

Lori Wallach Profiled in The Hill

Check out this profile of Lori Wallach in The Hill today:

The Hill masthead

Agitator by Trade Unhappy with Obama

Wallach Lori"Wallach, who was a year ahead of Obama at Harvard Law School, says the administration took up the mantle of George W. Bush by making only negligible changes to the trade deals that were hammered out while he was in office. 'He’s reviving Bush-era agreements and making those his own. It’s inexplicable,” Wallach said. … Win or lose, Wallach says she doesn’t subscribe to inertia, aiming to out-research, outsmart, outwork and out-organize her opponents — the majority of which are corporations. 'There’s a powerful set of special interests on the other side,' she said. 'The public is with us and our case is strong.'”

Read the entire profile here.

Photo Credit: Greg Nash / The Hill Newspaper

Print Friendly and PDF

WTO attacks U.S. ground beef labeling

For the second time in a week, reports have surfaced about the WTO clobbering a U.S. consumer labeling policy. Last week, the U.S. voluntary dolphin-safe tuna label was deemed a WTO violation. This week, Reuters is reporting that the WTO has ruled that U.S. beef labels are a WTO no-no.

Corporate meatpackers are rejoicing, saying (according to Reuters)...  174768709v16_480x480_Front

COOL was a bad idea from the start. "This ruling is unfortunate for the U.S. government but the consequences of a poor decision have been revealed. We fully support WTO's preliminary ruling," Bill Donald, president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, said in a statement.

WTO interference in these types of labeling schemes are likely to further erode support for so-called "trade" deals. As author Eric Schlosser wrote,

"The days when hamburger meat was ground in the back of a butcher shop, out of scraps from one or two sides of beef, are long gone. Like the multiple sex partners that helped spread the AIDS epidemic, the huge admixture of animals in most American ground beef plants has played a crucial role in spreading E. coli 0157:H7. A single fast food hamburger now contains meat from dozens or even hundreds of different cattle..."

Consumers, ranchers, farmers and legislators worked hard to pass the labeling rules after seeing ground beef horror stories in Schlosser's movie and book Fast Food Nation.

Heck, even free marketeers will be upset with the WTO ruling, since labeling transparency allows the consumer to make the free choice as to what kind of product they want to buy without the government dictating the outcome.

Unfortunately, rather than fixing the WTO mess we've got, the Obama administration is working to expand these types of consumer-harming rules through not one, not two, but three additional unfair trade agreements. Indeed, President Obama is pushing a package of three NAFTA-style deals with Korea, Colombia and Panama that replicate and expand on the WTO threats to food safety.

What's worse, they'll allow some food processors with a presence in the U.S. and these countries with new rights to DIRECTLY attack U.S. consumer safety rules. If the investors win, then U.S. taxpayers have to hand over cash compensation to these corporations. Over $350 million in compensation has already been paid out to corporations under these cases. This includes attacks on natural resource policies, environmental protection and health and safety measures, and more. In fact, of the $9.1 billion in pending claims, all relate to environmental, public health and transportation policy – not traditional trade issues.

At a time when food safety and worker safety budgets are being cut, expanding these flawed rules is unconscionable. If you think that Obama should be spending his energy fixing the flawed trade rules already on the books rather than expanding these rules to new countries, say aye here and take action.

How did we get to a place where the WTO was telling us what type of consumer labels we could use? We have more data on the case after the jump...

Continue reading "WTO attacks U.S. ground beef labeling" »

Print Friendly and PDF

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.

Print Friendly and PDF

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" »

Print Friendly and PDF

Trade Deficit with FTA Countries Continues to Climb

Yesterday the Census Bureau released the March trade flow numbers, revealing that our trade deficit continues to worsen. The U.S. trade deficit rose by $2.8 billion, or 6.2 percent, between February and March on a seasonally-adjusted basis.

With Congress on the verge of considering another set of trade agreements based on the NAFTA model, digging into the data of this new release could help illustrate whether existing NAFTA-style trade agreements are aiding or hindering the fight to keep the trade deficit under control.

The most recent trade data shows that the deficit with our 17 FTA partners continues to worsen, adding to the body of evidence that NAFTA-style trade agreements are hurting American workers. Between February and March, the U.S. trade deficit with U.S. FTA partners grew by $1.6 billion, or 12.3 percent. News reports on the trade deficit noted that the dramatic rise in the price of oil in March accounted for much of the widening of the overall trade deficit. Do oil imports explain the rise in the trade deficit with our FTA partners? No, the jump in the trade deficit with U.S. FTA partners is still huge when you take out oil to account for the jump oil prices. With oil excluded, the trade deficit with FTA partners increased by $846.9 million, or 13.9 percent, between February and March. The non-oil trade deficit with countries that are not FTA partners grew by only 6.8 percent over February-March, less than half the pace of the growth in the deficit with FTA partners.

The latest trade numbers are a sign that the trade deficit is acting as a brake on the momentum of the economic recovery. Given that trade with our current FTA partners act as a primary force in that brake, it is time for the Obama administration to rethink the Korea, Panama, and Colombia FTAs and chart a path away from the old trade model that leads to skyrocketing deficits.

Print Friendly and PDF

New Estimate of NAFTA Jobs Impact Warns Against Korea FTA

Rob Scott at the Economic Policy Institute has released a new study estimating 683,900 U.S. jobs have been displaced due to the rise in the trade deficit with Mexico after NAFTA was enacted. It serves as a grim warning of what could come if Congress were to approve the Korea FTA, which is based on the NAFTA model. Scott breaks down the job displacement by industry and congressional district, illustrating how workers across the country have been harmed as the deficit with Mexico skyrockets.

As Scott notes, corporate lobbyists and administration officials pushing the Korea FTA today sound just like pro-NAFTA government officials back in the early 1990's before NAFTA devastated U.S. manufacturing jobs. Once again they are claiming that a NAFTA-style trade agreement will create thousands of jobs, but this new study is a wakeup call to anyone who views their claims as believable.

Scott highlights the fact that the industrial structure of U.S. trade with Mexico and South Korea are very similar, which portends NAFTA-like job loss if the Korea FTA were to be implemented. The U.S. has huge trade deficits in electronics and motor vehicles and parts with both Mexico and South Korea, and the U.S. International Trade Commission predicts that the U.S. trade deficit in these products will dramatically increase if the Korea FTA were to enter into force.

Daniel Griswold over at the Cato Institute challenged the results of the study, claiming that the study's method of computing job losses is flawed. Proponents of unfair trade may rail against the methodology that Scott employs now, but what did they think of it when they were trying to prove that NAFTA would be a boon for workers before it passed? They embraced it. Gary Hufbauer and Jeffrey Schott, leading NAFTA proponents at the Institute for International Economics, released a study in 1993 predicting that the annual U.S. trade balance with Mexico would improve by $9 billion due to NAFTA, leading to a net increase of 171,000 U.S. jobs. To estimate the increase in the number of jobs, they used same method as Rob Scott used in his latest NAFTA study and applied it to their prediction of the change in trade flows after NAFTA, although their study did not break down jobs geographically.* Perhaps FTA proponents have changed their minds about the method merely because it now reveals all those claims about NAFTA job gains went up in smoke after NAFTA was actually enacted.

Griswold then goes on to belittle the magnitude of the job displacement estimated by the study, comparing it to the 15 million jobs that are created and destroyed annually. It's a silly comparison, because the 15 million figure deals with turnover, whereas Scott's study deals with the changes in the total number of jobs displaced by trade with Mexico at two different points in time, i.e. the net change after all the turnover has completed. 683,900 jobs is a lot of jobs, especially to those workers who have seen their jobs offshored due to unfair trade policy.

*The only significant difference between the studies is that Hufbauer and Schott used estimates from a 1992 Department of Commerce study of the number of jobs supported in each industry by each export commodity to Mexico, for which there is no similar recent data. Scott used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on the jobs supported by a given quantity of goods produced in the United States by industry, which gives results similar to the Department of Commerce data.

Print Friendly and PDF

April 2011 Executive Order on North Korea: Another Missed Opportunity to Address Conflict between Korea FTA and U.S. Sanctions Program

PicfsObama's executive order “Prohibiting Certain Transactions with Respect to North Korea” (4/11/11) does nothing to remedy the conflict between the current U.S. sanctions on North Korea and the terms of the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement. "South Korean" goods with parts made in North Korea's Kaesong sweatshop zone would still be able to enter the U.S. duty-free.

Read our full memo to find out why.

Print Friendly and PDF

Todd Tucker in Foreign Policy magazine: "Obama has swapped smart policy for the same-old job-crushing trade deals."

Check out Todd Tucker's piece in Foreign Policy magazine.

 

ForeignPolicyLogo1 

A Bad Trade

Obama has swapped smart policy for the same-old job-crushing trade deals.

"When Barack Obama was elected back in 2008, he committed to breaking with the same flawed trade policy the United States has followed for a generation. Obama promised a new page, one that focused on creating American jobs and protecting the environment. Instead, his administration has flip-flopped on these campaign promises and is now pushing free trade agreements (FTAs) that are projected to cost American jobs, undermine U.S. negotiating credibility, and could even dampen the president's electoral prospects in 2012. ..."

Read the entire piece here.

Print Friendly and PDF

USDA's FTA Report Repeats Errors of Previous Flawed Studies

Earlier this week, the USDA released a report attempting to estimate the effects of the Korea, Colombia, and Panama FTAs upon U.S. agricultural trade. It also examined possible effects of the ASEAN-China and ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand FTAs upon the U.S.

Unfortunately, the USDA estimated the effects through a computable general equilibrium (CGE) model, which has a shoddy track record, to say the least. A 1999 U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) study on the likely effects of China’s tariff offer for WTO accession used a CGE model to estimate that the U.S. trade deficit with China would increase by only $1 billion dollars due to China’s accession. In reality, the trade deficit with China skyrocketed by $167 billion between 2001 and 2008.

Similar studies on NAFTA were also way off the mark. An economist at the Federal Reserve concluded that a CGE-based study of NAFTA underestimated NAFTA’s impact upon U.S. imports by ten times the actual effect of NAFTA. He concluded his study with a recommendation: “If a modeling approach is not capable of reproducing what has happened, we should discard it.”

Not accounting for currency manipulation is a chief problem of CGE models, as Rob Scott at the Economic Policy Institute has demonstrated. The USDA's report even acknowledges the devastating effect currency devaluation can have upon U.S. agricultural exports:

In 1997, U.S. apple exports to Southeast Asia peaked at 150,000 tons, just as the Asian financial crisis struck. The crisis led to sharp devaluations of Southeast Asian currencies that raised the prices of imported apples and income losses that further discouraged apple buying, triggering a dramatic decrease in U.S. apple exports to the region.

As we discuss in a factsheet, Korea is only one of three countries to have ever been placed on the Treasury Department’s list of currency manipulators, having repeatedly manipulated its currency in the past. The Korea FTA contains no prohibition against currency manipulation, so the Korean government could effectively negate the tariff cuts mandated under the FTA through currency manipulation. Despite the long history of Korea manipulating its currency, the USDA’s estimates do not attempt to account for the very real possibility of another devaluation, even though they could have done so through estimating alternative scenarios.

Continue reading "USDA's FTA Report Repeats Errors of Previous Flawed Studies" »

Print Friendly and PDF

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.

Print Friendly and PDF

HI State Rep Takumi Says No More NAFTAs!

Check out this op-ed written by Hawaii State Rep. Roy Takumi (D-Pearl City, Palisades) in theTakumi Honolulu Star Advertiser today. Takumi, who has served in the Hawaii State Legislature for over 19 years, is leery of more NAFTA-style agreements.

I began serving in the state House 19 years ago, shortly before NAFTA was implemented. Since NAFTA and a batch of NAFTA-style deals with other countries, we've suffered an exploding trade deficit, the loss of more than five million manufacturing jobs, and stagnation of real median wages for American workers  at 1970s levels. Meanwhile, we have been flooded with unsafe imported food and goods, and foreign investors have used NAFTA to challenge important state environmental laws before foreign tribunals.

Further, Takumi takes on some of the rosy promises Korea FTA supporters are making to Hawaii's agricultural producers.

The reality is that even with zero Korean tariffs, most of Hawaii's agricultural products cannot come close to the low prices for which these products are sold to Korea by others. For example, Indian banana and papaya farmers sell their crop at one-fourth to one-third the price local farmers require. Peruvian farmers sell guava at $173 per metric ton; our price is $346. Farmers in Thailand, the largest pineapple producer, sell their pineapples at $120 per metric ton compared to $458 locally. How do we compete in this market?

Takumi, who has led efforts to improve trade agreements for several years - including sponsoring legislation that was enacted in 2007 to give the Hawaii legislature a formal role in determining some of Hawaii's commitments to trade agreements - is among many state officials who are critical of the undemocratic NAFTA-style model.

Just a few weeks ago, New Jersey State Senator Shirley Turner (D-Trenton) introduced a resolution supporting a New Jersey Constitutional amendment requiring that the New Jersey legislature give approval before New Jersey may be committed to certain aspects of international trade agreements. This resolution comes on the heels legislation passed by wide margins in the New Jersey legislature last session which was vetoed by the outgoing governor, John Corzine. If Turner's resolution passes, the proposed amendment will go to the ballot this fall.

Print Friendly and PDF

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.

Print Friendly and PDF