Obama trade proposal threatens more Minnesota jobs
By Barb Kucera, Workday editor 13 February 2013
|ST. PAUL - President Obama’s plan to participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement threatens thousands of Minnesota jobs, according to a new analysis released by the Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition.
|“We intend to complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership,” Obama pledged in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night. If enacted, it would become the largest free trade agreement in U.S. history.
Initially it would involve a limited number of countries, such as Australia, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico and Vietnam, but is also being negotiated as a “docking agreement” that would be open for any nation in the Asia-Pacific region to join.
“The Trans-Pacific Partnership would accelerate job loss in Minnesota by forcing local employers to compete with companies that take advantage of sweatshop working conditions in places like Vietnam and Malaysia, which are undercutting even Chinese manufacturers,” said Josh Wise, director of the Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition.
“We need trade policies that protect workers’ rights abroad and jobs here at home, not ones that continue a global race to the bottom that no ordinary Minnesotan can ever win.”
The Trans-Pacific Partnership would be a continuation of failed trade policies that have cost thousands of Minnesotans their jobs and deprived communities of millions in revenue, the coalition said.
A new analysis of U.S. Labor Department data shows that Minnesota lost 20 percent more jobs to offshoring in 2012 than in a typical year and the 7th most jobs per person of any state.
The Labor Department certified 2,525 Minnesota jobs as destroyed by either direct offshoring or displacement by imports in 2012. Since NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, took effect in 1994, the number of trade-displaced jobs certified by the Labor Department in Minnesota stands at 39,797 – the 15th highest in the nation as a percentage of state population.
The Labor Department individually certifies workplace layoffs as being trade-related in order to qualify displaced workers for the Trade Adjustment Assistance program.
The Fair Trade Coalition argues that the true number of Minnesota jobs lost to unfair trade is undercounted, in part because the program requires people to proactively apply for certification, and also because people in service sector jobs that have been offshored, such as those in call centers or computer programming, typically are disqualified from the program.
Minnesota workplaces certified as having trade-related layoffs in 2012 included the Alexandra Extrusion Co. (Alexandria), Anderson Corporation (Bayport), Boston Scientific (Plymouth), CenturyLink (Minneapolis), Ecolab (Eagan), ExpressPoint Technology Services (Minneapolis), Ferrara Candy Co. (Round Lake), Ford Motor (St. Paul), HCL America (Duluth), Hutchinson Technology (Plymouth), IBM (Minneapolis), Lawson Software (St. Paul), Medtronic (Mounds View), Nilfisk-Advance (Plymouth), Northwest Publications (St. Paul), Prometric (St. Paul), Schawk Minneapolis (Minneapolis), Springs Global US (Minneapolis), Superior Plating (Minneapolis), Supervalu (Eden Prairie), Thomson Reuters (Eagan) and Verso Paper (Sartell).
“Over the last 20 years, I have seen thousands of these jobs lost,” said Gerry Parzino, a staff representative for the United Steelworkers. “When my members do find a job, typically the jobs are paying $10 to $12 less than the jobs they were displaced from.”
Added Steve Hunter, secretary-treasurer of the Minnesota AFL-CIO: “Minnesota communities have been hit hard by offshoring over the years and the data shows that trend doesn’t seem to be slowing. Minnesotans have good reason to worry that this so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership could cause a devastating blow to what remains of the state’s middle class.”
Negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership have been conducted in secrecy from the public and media, with access granted to a select group of corporate lobbyists. The administration is seeking “trade promotion authority” that would allow it to push a deal through Congress without any amendments.
The Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition, formed in 1991 in opposition to NAFTA, consists of nearly 60 labor, family farm, environmental, faith and social justice organizations supporting fair trade policies and global justice.