The Stand

Congress approves three more ‘free trade’ agreements

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Oct. 13) — Congress gave its approval to three “free trade” agreements (FTAs) on Wednesday, signing off on deals with South Korea (which passed the House 278-151 and the Senate 83-15), Colombia (262-167 and 66-33) and Panama (300-129 and 77-22) one day after the Senate rejected even allowing a debate President Obama’s jobs bill.

Every member of Washington state’s congressional delegation — Democrats and Republicans alike — voted in favor of the deals. The lone exception was Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Seattle), who voted “yes” on the Korea and Panama FTAs, but opposed the Colombia deal. Reps. Jay Inslee, Rick Larsen, Norm Dicks, and Adam Smith were among just 31 Democrats to vote “yes” on the Colombia deal.

“These flawed trade deals – with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama — are the wrong medicine at the wrong time,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said Wednesday. “Working people know what too many politicians apparently do not: these deals will be bad for jobs, workers’ rights and our economy.”

A robust plurality of Americans believe that FTAs  have hurt the country, while a paltry 23% agree support approval of more of them.

The Economic Policy Institute predicts that the trade deal with Korea could cost nearly 160,000 American jobs.

“A deal with Colombia is not just bad policy, it’s immoral,” Trumka said. “Colombians who try to organize to lift their families out of poverty are often murdered with impunity. Just last year, 51 trade unionists were assassinated. Would we pass a trade agreement with a country where 51 corporate CEOs had been murdered?”

During a 2008 campaign swing through Rust Belt states devastated by manufacturing job loss and offshoring, candidate Barack Obama pledged to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and other trade deals, saying he believed NAFTA had been bad for America and “I think we should use the hammer of a potential opt-out as leverage to ensure that we actually get labor and environmental standards that are enforced.” He also expressed opposition to the Korea free trade agreement.

But after he was elected president, he quickly backed off those pledges and began supporting the Bush-negotiated FTAs as part of his efforts to revive the economy. He is expected to sign all three of the FTAs approved by Congress on Wednesday.

Given how partisan and polarized Congress has become, Wednesday’s passage of the FTAs is being hailed as a political victory for President Obama, who supports the deals. The New York Times (which has supported the FTAs on its editorial page) reports today that their passage is “important primarily as a political achievement, and for its foreign policy value in solidifying relationships with strategic allies. The economic benefits are projected to be small. A federal agency estimated in 2007 that the impact on employment would be ‘negligible’.”

EDITOR’S NOTE — It’s difficult to understand how passage of FTAs that were negotiated five years ago by the Bush administration and are opposed 2-to-1 by Americans is considered a political victory for Obama, who campaigned against them.

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Posted by on Oct 13 2011. Filed under NATIONAL. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 Comments for “Congress approves three more ‘free trade’ agreements”

  1. Rich Austin

    Inslee on the three lousy trade schemes:

    “Yes, I’m giving working class Washintonians the finger, now elect me governor!”

  2. Rich Austin

    Brother and Sisters:

    In announcing his intention to vote AYE on all three trade schemes, Democrat Rep. Rick Larsen (WA-2) took liberties with the facts. (See his 10/12/11 press release).

    Human rights abuses continue in Columbia, and the FTA will do nothing to stop them despite what Larsen asserts. Further, the South Korea deal isn’t what he makes it out to be. Below is a response I received from a person in Washington, D.C. who has years of experience exposing phony trade schemes, alas to no avail. (It seems labor always winds up saying, “Yes, our so-called friends in the Democratic Party screwed us again, but we must nonetheless support them…again.”)

    As Pete Seeger says, “When Will We Ever Learn?”

    Hi Rich – I am running out the door to a mtg and promise to send you good materials on the domestic content issues, BUT, bottom line is that, yes, you are correct! For many categories of goods – notably autos, most auto parts, computers and other high end electronics to start with, the Rules of Origin goes down to 35%. I will send you the actual text from the damnable ROO Annex (a totally mysterious table of numbers) but with comment boxes inserted so you can see what products that numbers (those are tariff line categories) refer to… I’ll be back at a computer in a few hours…

    BTW, FWIW, what Larsen did voting for all three of those FTAs is just inexcusable. 115 of the 192 Dems House members voted against ALL 3 FTAs, all but 21 of those Dems voted against Colombia. Majorities of the conservative Dem House caucuses opposed Colombia even. I mean even most of the Dems in the bag to the corp lobby on Korea (the real money deal) voted against Colombia given the union issues there.

    Post Script:

    If what Larsen did was inexcusable, what about the rest of Washington’s Congressional delelgation? Pitiful! As things now stand, U.S. workers have two lousy options: Vote for GOP sociopaths, or Democratic back-stabbers. Congress will not deliver justice. We must take it. That means general strikes and work stoppages all across our land. Let’s take a page out of the “occupy” movement handbook. Let’s occupy places of work, shut off the machines, and bring commerce to a halt until justice is won. (Or we can continue bending over for corporate Amerika and its Congressional stooges.)

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