Oregon Exports Hurting Under Korea Free Trade Agreement

As Oregon’s Congressional delegation considers whether to “fast track” the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement, new government data indicates that President Obama’s largest similar trade pact to date — the Korea Free Trade Agreement — has had a negative impact on exports from Oregon and throughout the nation.

The Korea Free Trade Agreement reached its second anniversary on March 15, 2014. U.S. International Trade Commission data on trade with South Korea is currently available through the end of December 2013. That data shows that the United States’ monthly bilateral trade deficit has increased 49% under the pact. The Economic Policy Institute estimated that the increase in imports and decrease in exports under the Korea Free Trade Agreement cost the United States about 40,000 jobs in the first year alone.

Specific to Oregon, government data shows that:

  • Oregon’s overall exports to South Korea were down 11% in the year after the Korea Free Trade Agreement’s implementation compared to the year before.
  • This equates to $116.7 million in reduced Oregon exports.
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20 Years of NAFTA is Enough! Oregon Rallies to Stop the TPP.

January 2014 marked the twenty-year anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a pact that has had devastating consequences for people and the environment in all three countries (the US, Canada, and Mexico) and beyond. The pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been described as “NAFTA on Steroids,”and threatens to:

◾Destroy livelihoods – accelerating the global race to the bottom in wages and working conditions
◾Further commodify agriculture, trample food sovereignty, hurt small farmers and contribute to forced migration
◾Enable corporate attacks on environmental policies to combat climate change
◾Reduce access to life-saving generic medications – raising drug prices

Across the state, labor, environmental, human rights and community activists came together to protest 20 years of NAFTA and to say no to the TPP and Fast Track! Continue reading

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Daniel Bonham Trade Justice Award 2013

We are please to announce that our annual volunteer award goes to Wes Brain from Ashland, OR, who has been a leader for trade justice with the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign (ORFTC) before we were ORFTC. The Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment (ASJE) in Oregon was the precursor to ORFTC and was founded in 1999. Wes Brain was one of the first elected board of directors, representing the labor caucus. The Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment brought together rank-and-file laborers and environmental activists in a strategic alliance that worked to challenge economic policies that destroy good jobs and a healthy environment. As ORFTC does today, ASJE worked to build a world where nature is protected, the worker is respected, and unrestrained corporate power is rejected though grassroots organizing, education, and action. Wes has been at the forefront of the trade justice battle, sharing his talent for bringing together unlikely allies for the mutual and far-reaching benefits of our coalition. He has been the lead organizer on multiple trade justice demonstrations, educational events and lobby visits. He has housed, fed and trained ORFTC organizers, fundraised for the coalition, and helped shape its direction. Continue reading

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Fair Trade Advocates Praise Congressional Demands for Oversight Over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

Portland, OR — Fair trade advocates praised the release of a new letter voicing Congressional opposition to Fast Track, a policy-making process that allows trade pacts to circumvent ordinary Congressional review, amendment and debate procedures. The letter spearheaded by Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and George Miller (D-CA), was signed by three quarters of the House Democratic Caucus including Oregon Congressmen Kurt Schrader and Peter DeFazio. Representatives Earl Blumeanuer and Suzanne Bonamici also signed onto another letter signalling concerns over Fast Track. Taken together, the letters demonstrate a strong demand from Oregon’s delegation for better oversight over the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement than Fast Track would allow.

“With trade negotiators rushing to conclude the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership, it’s heartening that so many Members of Congress are standing up and demanding that each provision of the pact be scrutinized to ensure that it is in the best interests of working families,” said United Brotherhood of Carpenters General President Douglas J. McCarron.  “The middle class cannot afford for the TPP to become a ‘NAFTA of the Pacific,’ and at this stage in the game, only real Congressional oversight and intervention will prevent that from occurring.”

“The Trans-Pacific deal will affect working families, environmental protections, energy policy, food safety and more,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.  “Congress is right to want to do its job and have oversight over expansive trade pacts.  Using Fast Track is like removing the seat belts and airbags from a vehicle and racing it toward its final destination.  It’s an egregious way to speed up trade deals, which all too often put foreign corporations before families and communities.”

The 151-signature DeLauro-Miller letter sent to the President states, “we will oppose ‘Fast Track’ Trade Promotion Authority or any other mechanism delegating Congress’ constitutional authority over trade policy that continues to exclude us from having a meaningful role in the formative states of trade agreements and throughout negotiating and approval processes.” Continue reading

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Failed trade policy and forced migration.

By Laura Bolaños-Ramirez, Portland Jobs with Justice & ORFTC Intern

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is an agreement signed by the United States, Mexico, and Canada. The agreement came into force on January 1, 1994. Mexicans were told that increases in trade, forging direct investment and exports would raise income and the standards of living. It was claimed that NAFTA would be so beneficial to Mexican workers that immigration would be reduced by two-thirds by the year 2000. Research has revealed the contrary, only 10% of the population has seen higher standards of living. With millions of jobs made obsolete and destroyed by cheap imports from the United States, thousands of Mexicans were left with no choice, but to migrate to the U.S. in search of work.

Alejandro Lopez a day laborer who first migrated to the U.S. when he was 26 years old stated, “Before I migrated to the U.S. I tried to find a job in Mexico, so I went to other states and cities looking for work, but it was hard to find something that was permanent, especially in agriculture, and I had no other option rather than to migrate. I have tried to go back and establish my own little business, selling food, fresh fruits and vegetables, and dairy’s. But, people bought what they could afford with the money they had, so they choose the cheaper products that often were those imported from the United States. I’ve try four times to establish a small business in Mexico and every time I failed because people chose to buy the cheaper products, so I have no other option then to stay in the US to support my family.”

U.S. Census data shows that rather than decreasing, the number of Mexican-born people living in the United States increased by more than 80% between 1990 and 2000. Continue reading

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Welcome Benjamin Gerritz, ORFTC’s Newest Board Member!

Senator Jeff Merkley (left) shaking hands with Benjamin Gerritz (right)Benjamin Gerritz is a native Oregonian, a strong leader with SEIU 503 and a dedicated member of Positive Force NW, a community-led group of HIV+ individuals working to eliminate HIV/AIDS-related stigma through social, educational, cultural, and recreational events, and community service projects.

Benjamin first became involved with ORFTC when he spoke at the Portland Peoples’ Assembly back in April where he told the audience, “This one pill I’m holding cost $64 or equivalent to $2,000 a month. For this price one would think it made of solid gold but for 34 million HIV+ people across the globe including me it might as well be as many of us would not be here today without it…The TPP would roll back internationally-held public health safeguards imposing rules and regulations to keep medicine prices high and out of reach of millions.” His personal testimony on the impact of the TPP on people living with HIV touched people in a way that data and statistics just can’t.

Since then he has been reaching out to Representatives Bonamici and Blumenauer and Senators Wyden and Merkley to ask them to oppose the TPP and Fast Track at every opportunity.

He is a truly inspirational social justice champion and Oregon Fair Trade Campaign will benefit greatly from his insights and experience serving on the board of directors.

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OR AFL-CIO Resolution on the TPP and Europe/U.S. Free Trade Agreement

At the Oregon AFL-CIO 2013 Convention this weekend in Bend, OR delegates voted unanimously for Resolution 21 to OPPOSE THE TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP (TPP) and TRANSATLANTIC and INVESTMENT PARTNERSHIP (TTIP)!

The TPP is far, far larger than the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in both its economic scale and its potential to undercut wages and worker power throughout the globe.

Thank you OR AFL-CIO for standing for workers and opposing a race-to-the-bottom trade deal that would devastate labor for decades to come.

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Video: Global Worker Solidarity Against the Trans-Pacific Partnership!

Strong message of global solidarity from our friend Celeste Drake, AFL-CIO’s trade expert who met with some of our Oregon labor leaders in Portland last month. Please don’t miss the powerful video on the TPP below!

Don’t Let Corporations Hijack Another Trade Deal

It’s happening right now, behind closed doors, and most people don’t even know about it.

Trade representatives from the United States and nearly a dozen other countries are negotiating the largest free trade agreement in U.S. history—the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement. And it could mean corporations gain even more power over everything from the wages you make to how clean your drinking water is to the safety of your kids’ toys.

We’ve put together this video of some of the working people across the world who are speaking out about the TPP and its consequences.
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Take Action to End Labor Abuses & Protect Family-Wage Jobs

WRC_Vietnam_Briefing_PaperFollowing President Obama’s meeting with Vietnamese President Troung Tan Sang last week to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), we are calling for TPP negotiations with Vietnam to be suspended until the Vietnamese government demonstrates that it has brought labor and human rights abuses to an end.
It’s no accident that average American families have seen our incomes decline over the last 20 years as politicians from both parties have signed “free trade” agreements that do nothing but trade away family-wage jobs, worker rights and food and consumer safety standards.  The U.S. and the world cannot afford more race-to-the-bottom trade pacts that put corporate profits above human beings.
Now politicians are trying to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement, which would freely trade good American jobs and benefits for products produced in countries like Vietnam by workers who are forced to labor in sweatshops under unsafe working conditions.
A recent report by the Worker Rights Consortium entitled, “Made in Vietnam: Labor Rights Violations in Vietnam’s Export Manufacturing Sector,” provides concrete examples of how the Vietnamese government and unscrupulous employers maintain a low-wage regime:
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