While so much of our attention recently has been consumed by the budget battles in Madison and Washington, another economic crisis has been developing without much publicity: imminent votes in Congress on more job-killing NAFTA-type trade deals.
Despite his campaign pledges to renounce the NAFTA model of trade agreement that has cost us millions of family-supporting jobs, President Obama signed a slightly revised NAFTA-type deal with Korea originally negotiated by President Bush.
Unfortunately, Congressman Ron Kind has come out in support of this deeply flawed Korea "Free Trade" Agreement.
What are the problems with this agreement?
First, the U.S. International Trade Commission estimated it would further increase our massive trade deficit. The administration claims that it will support (note: "support," not create) 70,000 jobs. That figure counts only increased exports from the deal, not the larger growth in imports. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that our trade deficit will be increased by nearly $14 billion - and that we'll lose as many as 159,000 jobs. About 7,000 of those jobs will be in the 3rd Congressional District.
Second, the agreement would newly empower foreign corporations with more rights than American firms by allowing them to demand compensation from our tax dollars for claims that our federal, state or local laws undercut their profits. These attacks on our wage laws, health and safety or environmental standards are not heard in American courts, but rather in international tribunals at the World Bank and United Nations.
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Finally, the pact continues the NAFTA-style ban on Buy America and Buy Wisconsin procurement policies so that we cannot even decide to spend our tax dollars to create jobs here in Wisconsin and in America.
Opposition to NAFTA-style "free trade" agreements is bipartisan. Seventy percent of Americans say that "free trade" agreements cost us jobs. Many of the Republicans elected to Congress last fall campaigned against more job-off-shoring trade deals. Among the strongest opponents of NAFTA-style trade agreements are members of the Tea Party. And a majority of Democrats oppose these agreements as well.
The Korea FTA may be good for some multinational corporations, but it's not good for the rest of us.
Unfortunately, Congressman Kind recently signed on to a letter to the president asking him to submit the Korea FTA to Congress quickly for a vote. He also came out in support of the equally flawed NAFTA style agreements negotiated by President Bush with Colombia and Panama.
Congressman Kind needs to reverse course and instead support the interests of working families and oppose these destructive trade agreements.
David Newby is president of the Wisconsin Fair Trade Coalition and president emeritus of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO.