Regarding the April 22 Point of View “How TPP levels the playing field for NC workers” by President Obama:
Though I applaud the administration’s stepped-up trade enforcement against China, the sad reality is that because these types of trade enforcement measures require U.S. workers and businesses to show injury, these actions come too late for businesses whose doors have closed and workers who have been fired. The existing infrastructure, as well as orientation, of our nation’s trade enforcement system is completely inadequate, essentially ceding responsibility for trade enforcement to the private sector.
Nationwide, 13,500 steelworkers hold layoff notices, and earlier this month 750 U.S. Steel white-collar workers learned they’d lose their jobs, too. And it’s not just steel. Five years ago, 14 aluminum smelters ran in this country. Of the remaining five, one is slated to close in June, putting 6,500 leaving aluminum workers jobless. These are good family-supporting jobs with benefits and pensions.
“Tough enforcement” is necessary but clearly not sufficient to protect or build the middle class in North Carolina or other states. The economic rules put in place by our existing trade agreements – including NAFTA, the Korea FTA and the WTO – are pulling our wages down, which means fewer customers for our local businesses and a lackluster economy in which too many of us face economic insecurity.
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The TPP, rather than “leveling the playing field,” gives us more of the same: rules written by and for global companies behind closed doors. The TPP’s rules will make it far easier and less risky for companies to off-shore jobs, avoid U.S. taxes and anti-pollution laws, and produce in countries known for abusive labor and human rights regimes. Broad promises are being made about the ability of the TPP to create independent unions in Vietnam and end destructive overfishing. The hard truth is that labor and environmental abuse is rampant in countries with which we already have trade agreements with very similar rules, including Peru, Colombia and Korea. If promises in trade deals fixed problems, the 99 labor activists murdered for union activity since the Colombia FTA went into force would still be alive.
The TPP, like agreements before it, is designed to weaken unions and depress wages. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that North Carolina had 60,700 net jobs displaced by existing trade deficits with TPP countries in 2015 alone.
Because of what is perhaps TPP’s worst feature, the inclusion of private “corporate courts,” foreign investors would be able to bypass U.S. courts and use private tribunals to challenge any local, state or federal action that threatens their expected profits. The threat of such lawsuits creates a chilling effect, deterring good public policy for fear of expensive legal challenges.
Opposing the TPP does not mean we oppose trade or want to “sit on the sidelines.” It means standing up for North Carolina’s working families and against rigged rules written by overpaid CEOs.
Secretary-Treasurer, North Carolina AFL-CIO
The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the Point of View.