Over 4,500 Area Jobs at Risk Under Proposed Korean Trade Pact

For Immediate Release
July 18, 2011

Over 4,500 Area Jobs at Risk Under Proposed Korean Trade Pact
Analysis of Government Data Finds Jobs in Electronics and Manufacturing Are Among the Most Threatened in Oregon’s Fifth Congressional District

SALEM, Ore. — Over 4,500 people in Oregon’s 5th Congressional District 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.  Congress could vote on the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA) as early as this week.  According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, the proposed Korean trade agreement would increase the U.S. global trade deficit, negatively affecting employment in industries prevalent in the greater Salem area.

“With the state’s unemployment rate already one of the highest in the nation, Oregon simply cannot afford another job-killing trade agreement,” said Elizabeth Swager, assistant director of the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign.  “It’s hard to believe that members of Oregon’s Congressional delegation would even consider supporting a trade deal that’s expected to increase the deficit and cost the state 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. trade deficit.  The USITC also indicates that jobs are likely to be lost in high-wage industries such as electronics and manufacturing, 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 4,515 people in Oregon’s 5th Congressional District employed in sectors of the economy that the USITC has identified as most at risk under the Korea FTA.  This includes 1,555 in metal products manufacturing and 1,519 in electronics equipment.  Statewide, there are 36,999 Oregonians employed in sectors of the economy identified as most at risk.

“It’s not like there isn’t a track-record for our elected officials to go by.  My high-tech job was offshored to China last year, and I still haven’t been able to find similar employment,” said Mitch Besser, a displaced software engineer from Lake Oswego.  “Past trade deals have destroyed too many families’ livelihoods already.  We’ve got to stop this broken model now, before our children’s livelihoods are also destroyed.”

Oregonians called on Congressman Kurt Schrader to oppose the Korea Free Trade Agreement during a picket and press event outside his downtown Salem office on Monday.  The Congressman has repeatedly said he is leaning in favor of the Korea proposal.

“Finding a family-wage job is already hard enough without people like Congressman Schrader making it even harder.  I don’t know how he can support a NAFTA-style trade deal that even the federal government says will increase the deficit,” said Daniel Bonham, a Woodburn resident. “This isn’t the time for elected officials to be cutting sweetheart deals for Wall Street that come at the expense of their constituents.  Congressman Schrader should speak out firmly against the Korea FTA before it’s too late.”


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 elizabeth@oregonfairtrade.org.

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