Unions Tell Federal Panel TPP Deal Will Shed U.S. Jobs

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By Tyrone Richardson

Jan. 14 — Labor union officials Jan. 13 urged the International Trade Commission to take a more comprehensive look at labor and wages as it investigates likely impacts of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

Members of the AFL-CIO, United Auto Workers, United Steelworkers and International Association of Machinists testified before the ITC Jan. 13. The four labor unions were among about three dozen officials from industries and nations who testified as part of the ITC's mandated investigation about the economic impacts of the TPP trade deal.

The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act requires the ITC to prepare a report that assesses the likely impact of the Agreement on the U.S. economy as a whole and on specific industry sectors and the interests of U.S. consumers. The proposed TPP trade deal includes the U.S. and the nations of Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Labor officials have long opposed the TPP deal. Some have dubbed the agreement a failed policy, citing potential currency manipulation that could fizzle manufacturing and jobs in the U.S. (232 DLR A-16, 12/3/15).

Labor Opposes Trade Deal

The labor officials who testified echoed those sentiments.

That included Celeste Drake, a trade and globalization policy specialist for the AFL-CIO, who urged the ITC panel to take a deeper look at how the proposed trade pact could affect jobs and wages in the U.S. She also urged the ITC to alter its investigation to include more research about inequality in such a trade deal.

“To date, increased trade globalization of the corporate model has led to increasing trade deficients and a corresponding loss of jobs for America's workers,” she said. “Our manufacturing sector has been hollowed out, losing about 5 million jobs and 60,000 factories since 2000.”

Drake said previous trade policies have “played an enormous role” in such “a decline.”

Because the TPP repeats too many particulars “from prior trade deals, particularly with respect to labor rights, rules of origin, investment procurement, the environment, and the imbalanced restrictions on allowable legislation and regulations, we conclude that it will repeat the failures of prior deals, costing jobs, harming wages, increasing inequality and enhancing corporate influence here and overseas,” Drake said.

Drake's comments referred to union complaints about previous trade pacts, including U.S.-Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). The Labor Department has been investigating complaints about violations of labor laws with some nations involved in the CAFTA-DR (237 DLR A-9, 12/10/15).

Alter Research Method

Drake suggested the ITC use additional research methods for the TPP. That includes the United Nation's Global Inequality Model, research that looks at changes in employment and inequality.

“Past ITC investigations have not matched reality,” she testified.

She also referenced a Jan. 12 Tufts University study “Trading Down: Unemployment, Inequality and Other Risks of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.” The study concluded that the U.S. would lose jobs with the TPP deal.

“We find that any benefits to economic growth are more limited, and even negative in some countries such as the United States,” according to the report. “More importantly, we find that TPP would lead to losses in employment and increases in inequality.”

Other labor officials who testified before the ITC panel Jan. 13 echoed Drake's comments.

That included USW President Leo Gerard, who cautioned that history could be repeated unless the TPP is vetted differently than past trade deals.

Gerard said steel production and auto manufacturing have moved overseas in part as a result of broadened trade deals. He said the TPP could put more U.S. “jobs under attack” by shifting manufacturing to other nations.

“The TPP will be a nail in the coffin for huge parts of the American industrial base,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tyrone Richardson in Washington at trichardson@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at smcgolrick@bna.com

For More Information 
Text of the Tufts University report is available at http://src.bna.com/b2z