The trade deficit is one of the biggest drains on our national economy and very few people are talking about it. We all complain about the jobs lost as US manufacturing plants close only to reopen overseas (thanks NAFTA), but what are we doing about it.
It is vitally important to our economy to fix these gapping holes in our trade policies that allow corporations to skirt taxes and ship our jobs overseas. If we continue down the dangerous path we are on then we will continue in this cycle of austerity from Washington that leads to more job losses and more budgets.
I encourage you to read the entire article but I have include a few key points below.
Our enormous, humongous trade deficit is a measure of how many jobs, factories, companies and industries we are losing to our pro-Wall Street trade policies. A trade deficit drains our economy of wealth, jobs and future economic opportunity.
…When you close a factory in the U.S., move the jobs and production to a low-wage, low-democracy country, and bring the same goods back to the U.S. to sell in the same stores this “increases cross-border trade.” But since this trade is going in one direction, it also increases our trade deficit, which hurts our economy. Moving the jobs to places where the workers are exploited means that a few investors and executives can pocket the difference in what is paid in wages and environmental protection costs, while impoverishing the workers and communities on all sides of the trade borders.
And to top it off, the U.S. doesn’t even make these companies pay their taxes, so we literally get nothing back for the lost jobs and wages.
…Our tax policies also encourage production to move out of the country. Companies that make profits outside the U.S. can dodge taxes by keeping the profits out of the U.S. This encourages companies to transfer production out of the U.S. and import in ways that make it appear the profit is made elsewhere.
…The upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a huge trade and corporate-rights agreement being negotiated between the U.S. and 11 other countries. One example of the trade effect of this agreement (which is mostly not a trade agreement) is the competition between athletic shoe companies Nike and New Balance. Nike makes shoes outside the U.S. in countries like Vietnam. New Balance is still trying to make some of its shoes in the U.S. If TPP drops a tariff on shoes from countries like Vietnam, Nike’s profits from making things outside the U.S. will increase, putting New Balance at a competitive disadvantage that could force it to stop making shoes in the U.S.
TPP and other upcoming corporate-rights agreements were recently “fast-tracked” by the Congress – even though TPP is still secret. By fast-tracking, Congress agrees in advance not to “meddle” with the corporate-negotiated agreements, meaning that anything called a trade agreement is essentially preapproved, no matter what is in them. Congress cannot amend the agreement, can’t filibuster it, has to abide by limits to the floor debate and must pass the agreements in a limited time, which keeps the public from getting involved.
In a close vote last week, a majority in the U.S. House chose to continue glomming onto the same tired old broken-down trade tactics that have closed American factories, cost American jobs and caused massive trade deficits.
The majority voted to sustain for the next six years trade policies that failed American workers for the past 20. The majority abdicated Congress’ constitutional responsibility to supervise international trade. Instead, they agreed to allow presidential administrations to once again negotiate trade deals in secret, then whip those corporate-appeasing, clandestine schemes through the Congressional approval process with absolutely no amendments, no changes, no improvements.
That’s the “Fast Track” process under which Congress has averted its eyes and approved one job-killing, deficit-ballooning trade deal after another, starting with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994. The result of that indolent, duty-shirking process since then has been 57,000 shuttered American factories and 5 million lost jobs. Now, instead of conceding failure and forging a new path on trade, the House cleared the way to destroy more American manufacturing and family-supporting jobs.
Kori Sherwood lost her good, family-supporting job at U.S. Steel because of illegally-subsidized imports.
These backward-facing lawmakers would benefit from stepping out of lobbyist-infested D.C. and speaking to small town manufacturing workers who lost their livelihoods because Fast Tracked free trade schemes encouraged corporations to off-shore factories.
Maybe these pro-trade deficit politicians should listen to American steel and paper and tire workers describe what happened to them and their families and their communities when Fast Tracked trade schemes pitted them against child workers and forced laborers in foreign factories.
Maybe those politicians should hear formerly middle-class workers tell of unenforced provisions in Fast Tracked free trade schemes that enable foreign manufacturers that violate international trade regulations to steal market share from American businesses.
Under international trade law, countries can prop up industry with government subsidies when the products are sold internally. Beijing may give its steel industry no-interest loans and free electricity when the rebar or pipe or I-beams are sold for construction projects in China. But international trade law forbids such subsidies when the goods are sold internationally because government aid suppresses product prices in what is supposed to be a free market. Some countries, however, routinely flout the rules. Then American companies that don’t get no-interest government loans or free electricity or other subsidies can’t compete on price.
They shut down mills and lay off workers. Unions and manufacturers are forced to pay millions to petition for import duties on the subsidized foreign goods to level the playing field. To win such a case, industry must prove financial injury and workers must suffer layoffs and lost income.
Kori Sherwood got one of U.S. Steel’s layoff notices and lost her job at Minntac on May 26. China’s violation of international trade rules dashed Sherwood’s hopes and plans. “You finally think you get your life in order – buy a truck, buy a home, and it all falls apart,” she said.
My union, the United Steelworkers (USW), has repeatedly petitioned for trade law enforcement. In too many cases, however, decisions arrive so late that factories are permanently closed and workers seriously scathed.
Fast Track-loving lawmakers should talk to American workers who once made uncoated paper, the non-shiny stuff used in copy machines. The USW and four American paper companies filed a trade case in January because tons of improperly subsidized paper from Australia, Brazil, China, Indonesia and Portugal was crushing American uncoated paper manufacturers.
Companies in these five countries kept their mills running and their workers employed by dumping illegally subsidized and underpriced paper into the U.S. market. These trade scofflaws bankrupted American paper mills and paper workers.
Since the dumping began in 2011, two U.S. companies that manufactured uncoated paper went out of business and a third stopped making the paper. Two firms closed two uncoated paper mills. And three others shut down four machines that produced the paper. The human cost of this: 2,500 family-supporting American jobs destroyed.
Communities suffer as well. In March 2014, International Paper permanently shuttered its 43-year-old uncoated paper mill in tiny Courtland, Ala. It was the area’s largest employer. More than 1,100 workers lost their jobs. Suddenly gone was an annual payroll of $86 million and $2.3 million in tax payments that the town, county and schools depended on every year.
Four of the uncoated paper mills applied for Trade Adjustment Assistance, a federal program that retrains workers if it can be proved that they were sacked because of international trade. All four qualified. That helped. But it did not restore good, family-supporting union manufacturing jobs.
Import-adoring lawmakers should talk to tire builders from Tuscaloosa and Gadsden Ala., Findlay, Ohio, and Salem, Va., who have watched with endless anxiety over the past decade as American manufacturers closed plants and cut production because Chinese producers dumped subsidized passenger and light truck tires into the U.S. market.
After the USW petitioned for relief, the U.S. imposed import duties on Chinese tires beginning in 2009 and imports declined significantly. American producers regained market share and invested in American factories. They recalled laid off workers and even hired new ones.
Since the preliminary duties, Goodyear has added new tire machines and hired 188 workers. But if the duties disappear, Hayes fears his plant could suffer the fate of the factory Goodyear closed in Union City in 2011. He told the trade commission that would devastate workers’ families and the state, to which the plant annually contributes $360 million in direct and indirect economic activity.
American workers and American manufacturers don’t oppose trade. They can compete on a level playing field with anyone in the world. But the current trade regime, swept in without serious analysis on the back of Fast Track authority, has failed to provide a level playing field. America needs a new vision for trade. And to achieve that, lawmakers must slow track proposed trade deals.
Working Families Have Spoken And Washington Was Listening.
Yesterday, the US House of Representatives held a vote on the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which failed by a 126 to 302 vote, due to strong opposition from House Democrats.
For months, progressives and labor advocates have been speaking out against the TPP. Senators Warren and Sanders have made their opposition to the TPP a main talking point in all of their recent speeches. They spoke out because the White House was negotiating the TPP in secret. What little information has been leaked on the proposed deal shows that the deal would be harmful to American workers, continuing the failed policies of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The Fast Track legislation narrowly passed the Senate however House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi rallied House Democrats against it.
“Nancy Pelosi has always fought for working families and today her leadership on the trade package vote was instrumental in the House voting against another bad trade deal,” said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. “She stood up against corporate interests and as always put first the people who are too often left out of trade agreement discussions. I applaud Rep. Pelosi’s bravery and leadership on this and look forward to working with her on good trade bills.”
“The House leadership tried to use a gimmick to push Fast Track through Congress. In rejecting an extremely weakened Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) package, representatives today stood with working families who want good jobs and thriving communities,” wrote the Communication Workers of America (CWA).
House Democrats like Rep. Annie Kuster (NH-02) truly understand why it is important to stop this Fast Track legislation.
“Every day, I’m fighting to support New Hampshire workers, small businesses, and family farms, which all deserve a strong say in our nation’s trade policies. I believe the trade promotion authority legislation currently before Congress fails to give these groups a real seat at the table, and fails to include necessary protections for American jobs and workers, which is why I plan to vote against it,” said Kuster in a written statement just days before the vote.
“The New Hampshire AFLCIO is especially proud of Congresswomen Kuster who stood strong in the face of tremendous political pressure to do what was best for New Hampshire workers and workers everywhere,” said Mark MacKenzie, President of the NH AFL-CIO.
It was not just Leader Pelosi who made this vote against the TPP a reality. It was the combined actions of millions of hard working Americans who lobbied their Congressional Representatives to oppose this secret trade deal.
“American workers came together and spoke with one voice about the path their country and economy should follow. We are very grateful for all the activists, families, community leaders, and elected officials who worked so tirelessly for transparency and worker rights in international trade deals,” Trumka said.
“Today, we saw elected leaders stand up and make clear that the failed promises of global trade agreements, which only seem to serve irresponsible corporations, must come to an end. More importantly, we have seen what hard-working families can accomplish when we stand together and fight for what is right for both workers and this nation,” Perrone said.
“We keep score. We see the Democrats and the Republicans that stood with us. TAA was the only way to get Fast Track through, and despite the efforts of the President, TAA failed. The subsequent vote on Fast Track itself proved this as we failed to stop Fast Track by a margin of eight votes – just a difference of four votes either way. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi got it right when she said that Democrats have always supported TAA but not as a path to Fast Track,” said CWA past President Larry Cohen, leader of the coalition work on Fast Track.
CWA President Chris Shelton said, “I’ve never been prouder of our union and the work CWA members do. We’ll continue to fight back and build the movement we need.”
Organized labor relied heavily on their progressive allies, like CREDO Action to help spread the word of the dangers of passing this “NAFTA on steroids,” Fast Track legislation.
“The failure of the White House to win a key vote to advance Fast Track Authority for the TPP shows that the millions of Americans who spoke out against job killing trade deals are making a big difference despite an all out effort by Wall Street lobbyists, the Chamber of Commerce, and the White House to ram this through,” said Murshed Zaheed, Deputy Political Director at CREDO Action.
However the fight over the TPP is far from over. House leadership has already stated that they will hold another vote on the Trade Authorization Assistance package early next week.
“This fight is not over,” Zaheed continued. “CREDO will continue to fight against Fast Track and any treaty that puts the rights of multinational corporations over the rights of the American people.”
We need our elected leaders to stay strong against the fierce lobbying arm of Wall Street and Big Business.
“We must fully defeat Fast Track, so that Congress can work for trade deals that give working families at least as much standing as corporations. We need 21st century trade that works for all of us, not just investors and multinational corporations,” wrote the CWA.
“Our broad coalition of Americans — representing millions of union members, environmental activists, immigrant rights advocates, people of faith, students, public health and consumer advocates, community leaders and so many more — will keep up the fight until Fast Track is defeated,” CWA concluded.
The New Hampshire Labor News would like to thank all of the Representatives who chose to stand with working families in opposition to this disastrous trade agreement. We the people have spoken and we thank you for listening! We hope that you will continue to stay strong in your opposition and defeat this disastrous trade agreement once and for all.
“Our campaign for trade policy that is fair and just will continue full speed ahead.”
Washington, D.C. — Today, Marc Perrone, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the largest private sector union in the nation, released the following statement in response to the U.S. House failing to advance fast track trade legislation.
“This is a victory for hard-working men and women all across America. In the face of long odds, the American people sent a powerful message that their interests trump narrow political agendas and special interests.
“Today, we saw elected leaders stand up and make clear that the failed promises of global trade agreements, which only seem to serve irresponsible corporations, must come to an end. More importantly, we have seen what hard-working families can accomplish when we stand together and fight for what is right for both workers and this nation.
“With respect to TAA, we support a clean extension of the program, but the best way to help the jobless is to simply stop passing trade agreements like TPP that kill jobs.
“While one vote does not end the fight, our campaign for a better America will continue full speed ahead until the threat of TPP and other unfair trade deals is gone for good.”
(Washington, DC) – A new ad from the AFL-CIO and USW highlights how the loss of manufacturing jobs due to bad trade policy over the past 30 years has hit African-American populations especially hard in cities like Baltimore. The video makes clear that the battle over Fast Track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is not about politics: it’s about people like former steelworker Mike Lewis.
“One can’t help but be saddened. This was once called the ‘Beast of the East.’ We made the steel that went into the Golden Gate Bridge…” Lewis says in a video message to President Obama, while standing on the decimated site where he proudly worked for 32 years as a full-time crane operator. The dream of economic opportunities disappeared in August of 2012 when Mike and 2,100 of his steelworker brothers and sisters who permanently lost their jobs at the steel plant in Sparrows Point in Baltimore.
The union hall where workers came together for so many years in good times has been a food bank that many rely on to feed their families. The closing of the steel plant and other manufacturing plants started the economic downfall that many in the African-American community have not recovered from.
“We want the American people to know that bad trade policies have terrible consequences for workers. This battle isn’t about a political party, it’s about the thousands of people just like Mike Lewis who simply want a fair chance to earn a good living and put food on their table,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.
Mike has a simple message for the President: “President Obama, we welcome you to come to the site of what failed trade policies have brought, the devastation of this facility. Please come, please take a look at the devastation of three decades of failed trade policies.”
The ad will begin as an initial web buy with key targeted audiences and escalate based on the timing of the Fast Track trade fight.
“Well, obviously this is his decision. I believe the right thing to do for him would be to step aside so that we can make sure that the focus is on serving the people of New Hampshire and not the findings of the FEC. And when it comes to things like this, I think it’s important to put the public trust first before any party concerns on this issue.”
NHPR continued to press Ayotte about some of the other things she is working on in Washington, like Fast Track trade authority. This is what she had to say about that.
(NHPR) You joined Sen. Shaheen in voting in favor of so-called fast track trade authority for the president. This is a measure supported by President Obama, but actually opposed by many Democrats, who say ties the hands of Congress on trade deals.
Why is fast-track authority the right move?
It’s the right move because again it’s about New Hampshire jobs and creating more opportunities. We have seen in New Hampshire great opportunity for more exports. The stakes are high. Some of the pending trade agreements, the estimates are they could create as many as 8,000 new New Hampshire jobs. We have seen increases in exports and we can see even greater opportunities. Ninety-five percent of the consumers live outside of the United States, so the more we can break down some of the barriers that our companies have, and have more American trade to allow them to sell their great products overseas, I know that’s why I support it. This is one that the president supports, as well.
Obviously I disagree with Senator Shaheen and Senator Ayotte in voting for the Fast Track trade authority. The TPP is NAFTA on steroids and while it will open up other markets to US trade, it will also allow big multi-national corporations to move more of their manufacturing facilities out of the US and kill more jobs.
Hopefully we can get the people in the US House to do what is right for working families.
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – During floor debate today about the Trade Promotion Authority legislation currently under consideration by the U.S. Senate, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) urged her colleagues to support two of her amendments to the legislation: the first, would boost small business exports and make sure that trade agreements work for small businesses, and the second, would eliminate a wasteful and duplicative government program on catfish regulation.
More information on the Shaheen amendment to help Small Businesses trade in the international marketplace:
Senator Shaheen’s amendment takes a number of steps to help small businesses take advantage of trade, such as reauthorizing the State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) grant program through 2020 and increasing funding for the program by $5 million per year. The STEP program, which Shaheen helped create, is an export initiative that has successfully helped small businesses to enter the international marketplace and create jobs.
One company that has benefitted from the program is Corfin Industries of Salem, New Hampshire. Before STEP was implemented, its international sales were just 2%. Now, that number is up to 12%, and as a result the company has added 22 employees.
The appropriations bill that funded the government for the 2015 fiscal year reauthorized and funded the program. The Shaheen amendment would reauthorize the program through 2020. The STEP program has supported more than $900 million in U.S. small business exports, producing a return-on-investment of 15 to1 for taxpayers.
Shaheen’s amendment, in addition to reauthorizing the STEP program, would require an assessment by the Small Business Administration on the impact of a potential trade agreement on U.S. small businesses.
More information on the Shaheen amendment to eliminate a wasteful and harmful catfish inspection program:
The Shaheen amendment would repeal a new program tasked with inspecting and grading catfish that places jurisdiction for catfish inspection with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), while leaving regulation of all other seafood with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
During a hearing in the Small Business Committee earlier this month, Senator Shaheen highlighted the impact creating a duplicative and wasteful catfish inspection program at the USDA would have on High Liner Foods, a seafood company with operations based in Portsmouth, New Hampshire that employs more than 300 Granite Staters. As a seafood processor, High Liner currently deals with inspections from the FDA. The impending creation of a new inspection program just for catfish is preventing the company from expanding its offerings and operations, as the costs of complying with two different inspection regimes is prohibitive. A letter from High Liner is available here.
USDA has warned that the program may cost as much as $15 million a year to operate and has already cost $20 million without having inspected a single catfish. The U.S. Government Accountability Office, which evaluates risk for wasteful spending, has recommended eliminating the program in nine separate reports, calling it “duplicative” and “high-risk” for waste, fraud, and abuse.
Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka
on Senate Trade Negotiations
“America’s workers have lost millions of jobs and billions in wages over the last two decades as a result of currency manipulation—all with little to no response other than talk from various administrations, regardless of party. If Congress is serious about ‘trade done right,’ enforceable currency provisions—both in U.S. law and in our trade deals—are needed.
Currency legislation, and indeed the entire enforcement bill (S. 1015) reported from the Senate Finance Committee, cannot be left behind as Senate Republicans attempt to advance Fast Track authority. Yesterday, Senate Democrats insisted that all four bills passed by the Senate Finance Committee—Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority, Trade Adjustment Assistance, Preferences, and Customs—must be bundled and considered as a single package. What they demanded yesterday, they should continue to demand today. Those who want to get trade right must demand that Fast Track doesn’t move unless currency and other enforcement tools are included in the package. Anything less leaves America’s workers, domestic producers, and communities behind.”
Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka
on Failed Senate Vote on TPA
“The Hatch-Wyden-Ryan Fast Track bill is halted – for now. That’s good news for America’s working families, domestic producers, and communities. We appreciate those senators who stood with working people today against a bill that would have led to undemocratic trade deals that lower wages and eliminate jobs. This vote sends a message loud and clear.
If Congress is serious about creating jobs, reviving U.S. manufacturing, and raising wages, it needs to use its leverage to reshape the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It must remove special legal privileges for foreign investors, add enforceable rules to prevent currency manipulation, strengthen rules of origin, and redouble efforts to ensure workers everywhere — from Hannibal, Missouri, to Hanoi, Vietnam — can organize and bargain collectively.”
Over 10,000 Calls and Nearly 7,000 People at Events Against Bad Trade
(Washington, DC) – Last week, the AFL-CIO and its allies placed 10,000 calls to 49 House Members and 2 Senators, with an additional 1,000 calls occurring on Saturday’s National Day of Action from Virginia alone.
Since Fast Track legislation was introduced last Thursday, nearly 7,000 union members, environmentalists, faith leaders and other community partners went to Capitol Hill and canvassed the streets in over 50 Congressional districts and states to warn about the dangers of the Fast Track trade deals. Current proposals would roll back state and local laws safeguarding food and the environment as well as laws that protect working people from wage theft, predatory lending, and consumer fraud. Click here for a list of the events in the DC metro area and across the country. Highlights include:
In St. Louis, MO, 400 hand written letters were drafted to Senators Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill, and to Missouri Members of Congress. In addition, 26 Missouri State Representatives wrote to Sen. McCaskill in opposition to Fast Track.
In Nebraska, nearly 100 people endured thunderstorms and pouring rain to rally in front of Brad Ashford’s district office. They then waited an additional half hour to personally go into the Congressman’s office one by one to express their opposition to Fast Track.
In Portland, Bend, Salem, Eugene, Medford and Coos Bay, OR, over 1,000 people protested the Pacific Rim Trade Deals.
In Washington, DC last Thursday, Members of Congress, labor and environmental leaders spoke to a crowd of 1,200 people. On Monday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, Sen. Bernie Sanders, CWA President Larry Cohen, and commentator Jim Hightower, spoke to a 1,000 person crowd of community allies from National People’s Action, USAction, Campaign for America’s Future, and Alliance for a Just Society.
At a Springfield, MA panel discussion, 50 students, union members, environmentalists and other community activists concerned about our food supply pulled out their phones to call Congressman Neil and express their views.
Also last Thursday, the AFL-CIO launched a six figure digital ad buy in 34 targeted House Districts and 16 Senate states.
Last week’s wave of action across the country builds on the grassroots activity in the month of March when union members, environmentalists, small business owners, progressives and community allies made more than 86,000 phone calls to Members of Congress, gathered more than 40,000 petition signatures, and organized more than 400 events across the country.
AFL-CIO and Canadian Labour Congress joint statement on promoting trade deals that work for people over profits
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), support and welcome trade and economic policies that create good, family-wage jobs, strengthen protection for internationally-recognized labor rights (including freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining), protect our environment, and promote shared prosperity and a virtuous cycle of rising wages and rising demand.
Having lived through NAFTA and its progeny for 20 years, we also know the danger of destructive economic rules that expand the rights and privileges of multinational corporations at the expense of working families, communities, and the environment. Neoliberal economic policies, including many of the rules enshrined in NAFTA and the World Trade Organization, have promoted a race to the bottom in terms of wages, labor rights, environmental protection, and public interest regulation.
That is why we join together today to announce our unrelenting support for different rules in three pending trade deals involving either the United States or Canada or both: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Comprehensive Trade and Economic Agreement (CETA), and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
Of the rules tilted against labor and for global capital in these proposed agreements, one of the most egregious is investor-to-state dispute settlement, or ISDS. ISDS provides extraordinary legal rights to foreign investors so that they can seek taxpayer reimbursement for losses to expected profits from laws, regulations, administrative decisions or virtually any other government measure. The rights protected go far beyond traditional property rights and its private tribunals are staffed not by professional jurists sworn to promote the public interest, but by for-profit attorneys, many of whom represent investors when they are not sitting in judgment.
The U.S. and Canada first incorporated this separate but unequal system into a comprehensive trade deal in NAFTA, and today, Canada, the U.S. and Mexico are each in the top eleven most-challenged nations under the ISDS system. Such extreme rights to challenge democracy are not good for domestic businesses (which cannot use this private justice mechanism), not good for citizens (who may see popular policies withdrawn by governments in order to avoid adverse judgments), and not good for rule of law (which is undermined by the separate parallel system for foreign investors only).
We are pleased to reaffirm cross-border cooperation in the struggle for people and planet centered trade and will not cease in our efforts to promote good jobs, rising wages, strong social safety nets, state-of-the-art public services and infrastructure, and an end to corporate power grabs like ISDS in all pending trade and investment agreements.
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