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‘Free trade’ backing firms outsourced 18,600 jobs

Crossposted from AFL-CIO Now’s Tula Connell.

Congress will soon consider three so-called free trade agreements (FTAs) between the United States and Korea, Colombia and Panama. Yet because these agreements do not include sufficient protections for workers, passage of these pacts would be a job-killing move at a time when more than 26 million Americans are unemployed, underemployed or have stopped looking for work.

The proposed Korea trade deal would cost an estimated 159,000 U.S. jobs alone,  according to trade experts who have studied the deal, and its loopholes could open the doors for goods made in China or even sweatshops and North Korea, but labeled in South Korea. (Join the union movement in a national call-in day Oct. 4 to urge lawmakers to vote down these bad trade deals. Watch for more info here in coming days.)

Yet, while corporations are sitting on $2 trillion in cash and not creating jobs, they’re twisting the knife further into the corpse of the U.S. economy with a new ad campaign pushing for passage of these three deals. And guess what? Some of the 32 corporations backing the campaign have shipped a combined 18,600 U.S. jobs overseas since 2001.

A new searchable database at Public Citizen shows the dirty details. In one case, Whirlpool took advantage of a previous such trade deal, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and shipped more than 1,000 jobs from its Ft. Smith, Ark., facility to Mexico in 2008. Caterpillar, a major backer of the proposed trade pact with Colombia, laid off 338 workers at its Mapleton, Ill., facility when it shifted its work to Mexico.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says that these three FTAs are similar to NAFTA, which has cost nearly 700,000 jobs and created a $97 billion U.S. trade deficit with Mexico. Calling NAFTA “a miserable failure for working people,” Trumka said, “We need to be creating jobs—not passing agreements that will offshore more jobs and leave more communities behind.”

Polls show the American public agrees.

A September 2010 NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll found that the impact of trade and outsourcing is one of the only issues in which Americans of different classes, occupations and political persuasions agree. Eighty-six percent said outsourcing of jobs by U.S. companies to low-wage foreign nations is a top cause of our economic woes – by far the top concern, with deficits and health care costs well behind.

Nearly 60 percent of Republicans at all educational levels believe offshoring plays a “major role” in current unemployment, according to May 2011 poll by the National Journal.

Note to lawmakers: Opposition to outsourcing is one place where’s there’s bipartisan agreement.

Also see:

It’s time to stop the insanity of failed “free” trade agreements (July 27 column by WSLC’s Lynne Dodson and Sierra Club’s Kathleen Ridihalgh)

Americans oppose “free-trade” deals, now more than ever (July 12)

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