Statement on Introduction of the Free Trade Agreements

For Immediate Release
October 3, 2011

Statement on Introduction of the Korea, Panama and Colombia Free Trade Agreements

By Arthur Stamoulis, Executive Director, Citizens Trade Campaign

Nobody honestly believes that the proposed free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama are job creation plans.  Nearly two decades of lived experience under NAFTA, not to mention the federal government’s own studies, shows that these pacts will become significant job-killers if enacted.  These deals are about corporate greed, plain and simple.

The Korea Free Trade Agreement is the biggest trade deal of its type since NAFTA, and is expected to offshore huge numbers of good-paying American jobs; the Panama deal would make it harder for the United States to unilaterally crack down on money launderers and tax evaders; and the Colombia pact is with a country where more trade unionists have been assassinated in recent years than in the rest of the world combined, and is likely to worsen the ongoing human rights catastrophe in that country.

The pending trade deals pose the most clear-cut question out there on whether Members of Congress will side with deep-pocketed offshorers, tax evaders and Wall Street executives or with ordinary constituents worried about their families’ economic future.  Too many Americans are unemployed, underemployed and underpaid for politicians to think they can pass job-killing trade agreements without the public taking notice.

Passing these proposals as written would not only ignore our massive trade deficit, it would increase it.  That’s not just our prediction or even just common sense.  Rather, it’s the finding of the U.S. International Trade Commission, a typically boosterish advocate of NAFTA-style trade agreements.  It’s critical that Congress send these business-as-usual pacts back to be renegotiated, so that President Obama’s promises of trade reform can finally be met and the American economy can get back on track.

When you look beyond the hype about increased exports, it’s clear that approving these deficit-expanding policies would further hurt an already-bleeding economy.  The government’s own studies suggest they would offshore even more good-paying jobs, including high-tech jobs, green-tech jobs and other jobs of the future.  With sky-high unemployment, the nation simply cannot afford another package of trade deals that ships more jobs overseas, reduces the tax base and drives down wages and benefits in the jobs that are left.  It’s time now for individual Members of Congress to choose which side they’re on.