Chesterton Tribune

USW urges opposition to Panama, South Korea, Columbia free trade pacts

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The United Steelworkers (USW) is urging Congress vigorously to oppose the free trade agreements with South Korea, Panama, and Colombia because economic facts show the deals will “undermine our economic recovery, further decimate American manufacturing and jobs, and deepen the economic insecurity.”

In a letter sent on Tuesday to each member of Congress, USW International President Leo Gerard wrote, “International trade and the consequences of accelerated globalization are matters of long-standing and deep concern to the USW, as an overwhelming portion of our members work in import-sensitive manufacturing sectors and all too often have lost their jobs due to bad trade deals and unfair and predatory trade practices.”

“Promises made by administrations past and present touting the benefits of free trade have simply not materialized for America’s manufacturing workers,” Gerard added, then called the nation’s trade deficit every bit as dangerous as the federal budget deficit, “fueled by trade deals that grease the path for greater and greater outsourcing and offshoring of jobs and capacity.”

Gerard said that trade deals during the past decade have caused the U.S. to lose 6 million manufacturing jobs and 55,000 plants, explained that multinational companies easily set up operations overseas and export back to the U.S. market, and cited new Commerce Department data which show American multinational companies have cut their U.S. work forces by 2.9 million during the past decade, while increasing employment overseas by 2.4 million.

“Trade deals force working Americans to assume all the risk and encourage big multinationals to reap all the rewards,” Gerard stated.

The union’s letter to Congress itemized key flaws based on analysis of each proposed FTA. Final provisions in the U.S./Korea trade agreement were identified that will allow for an imported vehicle to be eligible for duty-free treatment with only 35 percent of the content by value. The USW says a Korean vehicle could have almost two-thirds of its content by value coming from another country like China, while giving discretion on three different methods to calculate content.

The U.S./Korea FTA “will accelerate the offshoring and outsourcing of auto parts production, jeopardizing not only the jobs of the 350,000 Steelworkers that make products that can be used in the auto supply chain, but those of other workers across the country.”

Criticizing the Colombia FTA “puts in jeopardy America’s moral leadership by sacrificing the lives and livelihoods, the worker and human rights of the Colombian people at the altar of free trade,” the letter stated. A 2011 world survey of anti-union violence by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) based in Brussels was cited by the USW for reporting Colombia continues “o maintain the lead in a grim record of murder and repression of workers involved in trade union activities.”

“Moreover, the Colombian government continues to fail miserably at effectively prosecuting those responsible for anti-union violence,” Gerard stated, then noted that impunity for anti-union killings and violence should not rewarded with a trade agreement.



Posted 6/22/2011