With the House scheduled to vote on three significant trade deals this week and the Senate set to act on legislation to force China currency reform, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. joined with workers' unions on Tuesday in opposition to the trade bills and support for the plan to fight currency manipulation by China.
"The trade bills that are scheduled for a vote shouldn't be approved and the China currency legislation should be approved," said Pallone. "All these bills will have an impact on jobs in America. I believe the trade agreements with South Korea, Columbia and Panama will cost jobs and the currency manipulation by China has already caused the loss of more than one million jobs in America. We should be doing everything we can to create jobs and advance economic opportunity."
The Economic Policy Institute estimates an increase of the U.S. trade deficit of $14 billion and the loss of at least 160,000 jobs if the South Korean pact takes effect.
The so-called "free" trade deal with South Korea would be the second-largest trade agreement after NAFTA. It includes a wide range of provisions covering products and services so it could have a significant impact on domestic economic conditions, Pallone noted.
The House will also vote to reauthorize the Trade Adjustment Assistance program that provides job training for workers who have lost their jobs or suffered a reduction of wages as the result of increased imports. Pallone spoke in front of a training center that receives federal support to for job training. The TAA is vital to address the negative impact of unfair trade, Pallone said. The program will expire next February without an extension.
Columbia is the "world capital for violence against workers," Pallone said, with more union workers killed than the rest of the world combined. The trade deal does nothing to stop the violence or to bring those responsible for an estimated 2,680 murders to justice. The agreement with Panama is also the wrong thing to do, Pallone pointed out, because it does little to end Panama's role as a haven for financial abuses, including tax evasion by U.S. companies and individuals. Panama is also a big money laundering country for drug traffickers.
"These trade pacts are modeled on the NAFTA agreement and the results will be the same," said Pallone. "In the last decade alone, we have lost 55,000 manufacturing plants and six million jobs with NAFTA in place. We don't want to repeat the ill effects of NAFTA."
In the Senate, the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act is expected to be voted on during the same week the House acts on the three trade bills. The bill would force China to play by the rules of fair trade and level the playing field for American workers. Similar legislation was approved by the Democratic-controlled House last year but, despite the support of a large number of Republicans the House GOP leaders have refused so far to allow another vote.
Recent economic research shows that China's currency is undervalued by 25 percent to 30 percent against the U.S. dollar. A 28.5 percent revaluation of the yuan/dollar exchange rate by China alone would increase the U.S. GDP by $285 billion dollars, reduce the budget deficit by $71 billion and the trade deficit by $138 billion.
The Senate passed legislation to reauthorize the TAA on September 22, 2011. It includes extending benefits to services workers and firms, and requiring expanded evaluation and reporting requirements on the programs.
Pallone was joined by Laurel Brennan, Secretary Treasurer of the NJ AFL-CIO, and Wyatt Earp, the president of the Monmouth/Ocean Central Labor Council.
"At a time when passage of the President Job's bill should be Congresses' top priority, the House is moving forward to implement free trade deals that will have the exact opposite effect - draining more jobs out of the United State and sending them overseas," said Brennan. "NAFTA's legacy of domestic job destruction has illustrated these deals are bad for U.S workers. Let's fix existing trade deals before advancing more flawed trade policy."
"With a stalled economic recovery and unemployment above 9%, these trade deals will result in a net reduction of American jobs," said Earp. "Time and time again, we have been unable to learn from our mistakes of the past when passing flawed trade deals."