LaborTalk for May 6, 2011

U.S. Is Planning International Trade Agreements
That Would Cost Americans Thousands of Jobs

By Harry Kelber

A total of 682,000 U.S. jobs were lost or displaced since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took effect in 1994, a new study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shows. The main reason for the job loss is a $97.2 billion trade deficit with Mexico.

In 1993, the same year before NAFTA was implemented, the United States had a $1.6 billion trade surplus with Mexico that supported nearly 39,000 U.S. jobs. All 50 states, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have seen jobs lost or displaced to Mexico in the past 17 years, says Robert Scott EPI's senior international economist and author of "Heading South: U.S.-Mexico Trade and Job Displacements after NAFTA."

While supporters of the proposed deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama claim that they will create American jobs, Scott's research shows that each trade agreement would cost jobs in the first eight years. The current deal with South Korea could cost 150,000 jobs, and Colombia would swallow up 60,000 U.S., jobs, Scott predicts.

The study found the five states that experienced the largest percentage of local jobs displaced by trade with Mexico since NAFTA began are Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee. Most of the lost or displaced jobs by trade with Mexico?415,000 jobs?have been in manufacturing.

Obama Team Plans to Okay Three Trade Agreements

The Obama administration is edging closer to endorsing a trade agreement with Colombia, despite strong opposition from organized labor and its human rights allies. The AFL-CIO points to the more than 3,000 murders of trade union leaders and members that have been committed by paramilitaries in Colombia in the past three decades.

In the past year alone, there were 51 murders of union organizers and members. The government has made hardly any effort to deal with pervasive crimes of violence, union leaders say.

But the White House has been persuaded to go ahead with the Colombian trade agreement after getting a pledge from the nation?s leaders that they will expand their protection program for trade union leaders, enforce the labor laws more vigorously and hire 480 more labor inspectors. The AFL-CIO is highly skeptical about taking Colombia?s promises at face value.

In addition to the Colombian deal, Obama is planning to send Congress trade agreements with South Korea and Panama. Two major unions, the United Auto Workers (UAW) and the United Food Workers Association (UFWA) are in favor of the U.S.- South Korean agreement, saying. their unions will benefit from increased trade.

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Republicans have been pressuring President Obama to send the three trade agreements to Congress with a favorable recommendation. If the research of the Economic Policy Institute is on target, then those trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama will mean more loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs.

Those agreements should not be completed until further research shows they will benefit the U.S. economy. And as for Colombia, there should be no trade deal until there is concrete evidence that the government is cracking down on crimes of violence.—Harry Kelber

LaborTalk will be posted here on May 10, 2011 and on our two web sites and on

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