We Can’t Afford Free Trade

Posted on Jul 15, 2011 by Steve Kagen

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.

People everywhere are saying, “We need jobs, jobs, jobs.” If that is true, why is our government promoting a new trio of job-killing deals? Answer: Professional politicians in Washington are listening to Big Money, not us.

We’ve seen this movie before, and it doesn’t have a happy ending – working-class heroes lose their jobs. Under “free trade” deals, 589 paper workers lost their jobs at NewPage in Kimberly, as did 1,000 at Briggs & Stratton in Milwaukee, 800 at Western Publishing in Racine and 974 at Honeywell in Chippewa Falls. They are among 68,000 Wisconsin workers documented to have lost their jobs due to “free trade,” which, in fact, is a free giveaway of American jobs.

Under the pirate flag of “free trade,” more than 5 million manufacturing jobs disappeared nationally and 45,000 U.S. plants closed their doors forever, while workers’ wages remained flat. Under NAFTA and CAFTA policies, thousands of manufacturing jobs were lost in Wisconsin – 52,000 of them thanks to China. So, despite what professional politicians say, “free trade” deals are licenses to steal our jobs, legally.

The real damages experienced by my patients, my neighbors and my friends are beyond measure. After all, for Wisconsin families, a job is their most precious resource.

NAFTA- and CAFTA-style deals are punishing Wisconsin communities, and so will their sequels. According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, the proposed Wall Street-Korea deal will put at risk the loss of another 80,000 Wisconsin jobs, 10,000 being in northeastern Wisconsin.

So what does the Wall Street-Korea deal really do? Does it level the playing field? No. Does it enforce international labor standards? No. Does it prevent Korea from manipulating the value of its currency or dumping its subsidized products into our markets? No.

Does the Wall Street-Korea deal give Korean companies special access to our markets even when the major portion of a Korean product is “Made in China”? Yes. Does it ignore the fact that U.S. taxpayers have defended South Korea for a half-century? Yes. And incredibly, it threatens our nation’s sovereignty.

If enacted by Congress and signed by the president, the Wall Street-Korea deal would allow Korean corporations to challenge U.S. laws and sue us for damages before secretive international tribunals. Last month, one of these world government organizations ruled against America’s right to label products “Made in the USA.” This “free trade” deal would also give unaccountable international bureaucrats legal authority to pick our pockets, forcing U.S. taxpayers to pay a foreign corporation for their “lost profits.”

Contrary to what Washington politicians and Big Money special interests are saying, the real tragedy in the Wall Street-Korea script is that hardworking families in America will lose their jobs and our nation will fall deeper into debt.

We can’t afford “free trade.” We can’t afford to lose any more jobs. Instead, we must renegotiate NAFTA and CAFTA and establish “equal trade” with all our partners, especially China. We must guarantee that future trade agreements are good not just for Wall Street but also for businesses and their workers on Main Street.

I urge everyone, including all members of the House and Senate, to stand up for “equal trade” on behalf of American workers and American jobs.


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