37,000 Oregon Jobs at Risk Under Proposed Korean Trade Pact

For Immediate Release
January 25, 2011

Analysis of Government Data Shows 37,000 Oregon Jobs at Risk Under Proposed Korean Trade Pact
Federal Study Finds that Good-Paying Jobs in Electronics and Manufacturing Sectors Are Among the Most Threatened by the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement

PORTLAND, Ore. — Approximately 37,000 Oregonians work in industries that a U.S. government study identifies as at risk of being offshored should a proposed trade pact with South Korea be enacted.  President Barack Obama called on Congress to quickly ratify the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA) during his State of the Union address.  According the federal government’s U.S. International Trade Commission, the proposed trade agreement will increase the U.S. global trade deficit, which will negatively affect employment in industries prevalent in the Pacific Northwest.

“With our official unemployment rate over 10 percent, Oregon simply cannot afford another job-killing trade agreement,” said Arthur Stamoulis, director of the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign.  “It’s hard to believe that politicians would even consider supporting a trade deal that’s expected to increase the deficit and cost the country jobs, let alone one that’s being billed as the largest free trade agreement since NAFTA.”

Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took effect in 1994, the U.S. Labor Department has certified 51,176 individual Oregon jobs as lost to either direct offshoring or displacement by imports.  This figure is almost certainly low, given that service-sector jobs shipped overseas were not typically counted in the data set until mid-way through 2009.  In terms of volume of trade, the Korea FTA is the largest pact of its type since NAFTA.

The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC), the independent federal agency tasked with estimating the likely economic effects of trade agreements, predicts that implementation of the Korea FTA would lead to an increase in the overall U.S. goods trade deficit.  The USITC also indicates that jobs are likely to be lost in high-wage industries such as electronic equipment, motor vehicles and parts, and other transportation equipment, with deficits for these sectors totaling up to $1.8 billion.  The average hourly earnings of workers in the electronics industry, which is projected to lose a significant number of jobs, were $30.38 in 2008.  This was 40.5 percent greater than the average hourly earnings of all workers employed in the private sector.

There are 36,999 Oregonians employed in sectors of the economy that the USITC has identified as most at risk under the Korea FTA.  This includes 9,801 in metal products manufacturing; 9,543 in electronics; 7,163 in motor vehicles and parts; 6,190 in other transportation equipment; 1,648 in textiles; 1,630 in iron-containing metal work; and 1,531 in apparel.

“Finding a family-wage job is already hard enough without our elected officials making it even harder.  If the Korea trade agreement moves forward as planned, our state will lose thousands more good-paying jobs,” said Stamoulis.  “This isn’t the time for elected officials to be cutting sweetheart deals for Wall Street that come at the expense of the American middle class.  Senator Wyden and our U.S. Representatives should speak out firmly against the Korea FTA before it’s too late.”

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden chairs the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on International Trade, and could play an important role in determining whether or not the Korea FTA passes.  In town hall events across the state last week, the Senator said that he is still undecided on the trade deal.


The Oregon Fair Trade Campaign (ORFTC) is a statewide coalition of labor, environmental and human rights organizations working together to improve trade policy.

For a PDF of ORFTC’s reporter memo titled “Studies on Potential Economic Effects of Korea Trade Pact Show Rising U.S. Deficits and Job Losses,” please email media@oregonfairtrade.org.

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