TRADE DEALS: Obama’s Freudian Slip: I Want To See Us Export More JOBS, … Ah, More Products

by on Friday, September 28, 2012 at 12:53 am in Economy, Labor, Politics, Trade Policy

Sometimes hidden truths have a way of boomeranging back at the most inopportune times …

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Now Obama claims to have accidentally channeled his opponent on that slip, but what is Obama’s true record on crafting the kinds of trade deals that would increase the number of jobs here at home?

Economist Ian Fletcher, in his Huffington Post column, summed up Obama’s NAFTA-style ‘free trade’ agreement with Korea, which passed last year:

You think America has learned its lesson from NAFTA, which the Labor Department has estimated cost us 525,000 jobs? Think again.

Take the Korea agreement, for example. President Obama and the Republican leadership want it despite the fact that the Economic Policy Institute has estimated it will cost us 159,000 more jobs over the next five years.

Yes, you read that correctly. At a time when the president says that his number one economic priority is job creation, and has created an entire commission for that purpose, they’re going ahead with it anyway.

Even the official U.S. International Trade Commission has admitted that KORUS-FTA will cause significant job losses. And not just in low-end industries: the ITC foresees the electronic equipment manufacturing industry, with average wages of $30.38 in 2008, as a major victim.

The supposed logic of America swapping junk jobs for high-end jobs simply isn’t the way the economics really works out. Pace free-market mythology, there are actually well-understood reasons for this, if you dig a little into what economists already know.

Was this the Obama America voted for in 2008?

No. That Obama is at an undisclosed location somewhere. He campaigned against KORUS-FTA during the 2008 campaign. (It was originally negotiated, but not ratified by Congress, by Bush in 2007.) Among other things, that Obama said:

I strongly support the inclusion of meaningful, enforceable labor and environmental standards in all trade agreements. As president, I will work to ensure that the U.S. again leads the world in ensuring that consumer products produced across the world are done in a manner that supports workers, not undermines them.

Nice words. Unfortunately, none of them are reflected in KORUS-FTA, which contains no serious new provisions on these issues.

This agreement is essentially a NAFTA clone. It is, in fact, the biggest trade agreement since NAFTA, and the first since Canada with a developed country.

This agreement, like NAFTA and the dozen or so other free trade agreements America has signed since NAFTA, is fundamentally an offshoring agreement. That is, it is about making it easier for U.S.-based multinationals to move production overseas with confidence in the security of their investments in overseas plants.

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