UAW, Dems rally against TPP trade agreement

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Toledo — Cori Lortz’s father, an American union worker, opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement in the 1990s. Now, more than 20 years later, she finds herself fighting against another trade policy: the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“I saw how NAFTA destroyed my dad’s livelihood and I don’t want it to happen to me,” she said Monday at UAW Local 12 in Toledo. Lortz said her father, Larry Middlebrooks, lost his job at a packaging company after operations moved to Mexico as a result of NAFTA.

Lortz, who works at the Toledo Assembly Complex producing the Jeep Cherokee, was one of hundreds of union members and others to attend an anti-TPP forum featuring U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, and local UAW leaders.

The event aimed to rally those in attendance to write and call public officials to encourage them to stop a so-called “fast track” on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP — a free trade policy that has been under negotiation since the mid-2000s. It is one of a handful of such events occurring in Ohio with Brown and other officials.

Under “fast-track,” Congress can set the terms under which the U.S. negotiates but it does not allow the legislative branch to amend the trade agreement. It also allows Congress an up-or-down vote on trade deals without amendments.

Supporters of TPP have said it will open new markets for U.S. products, helping bolster U.S. manufacturing and job growth.

Opponents have argued that there should be no fast track process and that the government should openly debate the matter, fearing that the partnership could encourage job outsourcing and unfair working conditions.

“The individuals who advise presidents have forgotten to look inside the borders of the United States as aggressively as they look outside of the borders of the United States on trade,” Kaptur said after the event. “They have failed to recognize the impact that unfair trade agreements have on the American worker.”

The economies of the 12 countries involved in the TPP — Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the U.S. and Vietnam — comprise 40 percent of the global economy.

At the UAW’s 2015 Special Bargaining Convention in Detroit last week President Dennis Williams said foreign governments that manipulate currency and put up barriers to imports in their own countries present new challenges to the economy.

“No one can afford to get this one wrong,” he said. “Our government cannot negotiate another bad trade agreement.”

Ford Motor Co. also has spoken out against TPP because it does not take a hard enough stance on currency manipulation and other issues.

Currency manipulation, also known as exchange rate intervention, is when a country uses its own currency and buys up foreign reserves like the U.S. dollar, weakening its own currency. A weak currency cheapens the price of a country’s exports, making them more attractive to international buyers by undercutting competitors.

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