Labor Voices: Bad trade deal will hurt auto industry, jobs
The last thing Michigan needs is another bad trade deal. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what the recently-announced Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) represents. This new trade agreement will be up for debate in Congress soon, and it’s a perfect example of what not to do when it comes to crafting trade policies that are good for Michigan families, and our auto industry.
We’ve seen this story before. The politicians and corporate think tanks in Washington make lots of promises about how many jobs each new trade agreement will create. NAFTA and CAFTA were supposed to put an end to undocumented immigration, and the Korea FTA was supposed to help the auto industry and create 70,000 jobs. But none of those promises materialized.
Instead, manufacturing in Michigan has taken a beating. Just look at the numbers. Last year alone, Michigan’s trade deficit was a staggering $66.8 billion — one of the highest in the entire country. And in the 21 years since NAFTA was signed into law, Michigan has lost more than 254,000 good-paying manufacturing jobs.
We’re never going to win a race to the bottom on wages when working Americans are forced to compete with people in countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei. The U.S. trade representative won’t even explain how the TPP will make those countries comply with international standards, and the federal government’s own accounting office has repeatedly demonstrated that our trade enforcement is weak no matter what the labor standards are in any given trade agreement.
There have been a lot of promises made about how the TPP will help raise standards in China, but without strong rules against currency manipulation, it won’t work. China will continue to cheat on currency, and stand to benefit without ever joining the TPP.
And by failing to address currency manipulation, our huge trade deficit with TPP countries like Japan will only get bigger — making it easier for foreign automakers to sell their cars here, and harder for Michigan’s car companies to sell vehicles overseas. That’s why Ford has already come out against the TPP, and urged Congress to reject it. Furthermore, the TPP includes weak rules of origin on autos and auto parts, which will reward outsourcing and hurt auto exports and jobs.
No trade agreement is perfect, but the TPP fails to correct some of the most basic mistakes that have plagued trade deals of the past, like enforceable standards for labor conditions and environmental protections.
The TPP also includes provisions for a private “corporate court,” known as the Investor-State Dispute Settlement, for foreign investors. This will only give more power to corporate CEOs to write the rules of trade, and potentially receive huge payouts at taxpayer expense.
Global trade can be a good thing when countries compete on a level playing field, but our trade agenda needs to be focused on exporting Michigan-made products, not Michigan jobs.
We need to get our priorities straight and craft trade policies that reverse the trends of previous trade deals like NAFTA and CAFTA, help our auto manufacturers compete, and raise wages and working conditions for working people around the world. Congress should seize this opportunity to do what’s right for Michigan’s auto industry and Michigan jobs.
Ron Bieber is president of the Michigan AFL-CIO.
Labor Voices columns are written on a rotating basis by United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams, Teamsters President James Hoffa, Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber and Michigan Education Association President Steven Cook.