Wednesday, June 01, 2016
A federal trade agency tasked with reporting on the economic benefits of proposed trade deals came up empty last month when it reviewed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
While the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) has regularly served as a big booster of past trade agreements even when they didn’t warrant them, its evaluation of the 12-nation Pacific Rim deal was different. There was only so much lipstick USITC could put on this pig of a pact.
Instead of improving the nation’s trade deficit, the agency report predicted the opposite. That would lead to nearly 130,000 lost jobs. And it predicted losses in 16 of 25 U.S. economic sectors, making it clear that if the TPP ever gets through Congress, it will be a disaster for many in the workforce. In total, the document estimates only 0.15 percent growth in the nation’s GDP over the next 15 years.
That’s just not going to get it done. The commission’s findings only give further credence to this union’s belief that the TPP is a lousy deal for the country’s workers. Manufacturing, in particular, will be hardest hit because workers in countries like Vietnam are paid pennies on the dollar compared to those in the U.S. This country should not engage in a race to the bottom.
In fact, Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, noted how Vietnamese workers have been mistreated when they have tried to stand up for their rights in the workplace. Yet even after approving TPP, there has been little change to worker conditions there.
“U.S. trade agreements require our partners to provide rights for workers in order for them to earn a decent living and in order to create a standard of economic competition between countries that is not based on their exploitation leading to a race to the bottom,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, everyday Americans gain little from these deals. The USITC report estimates a decline in output from manufacturing, national resources and energy of $10.8 billion. And the miniscule economic growth predicted over the 15-year period that the document examines means it would only take the U.S. 45 days longer to reach the same growth level without TPP than it would if the trade deal were enacted.
Is that really worth the loss of U.S. jobs, the slashing of wages, the increased importing of unsafe food and products into this country, more expensive medicines and a less clean environment? Clearly not. Remember, the USITC’s numbers have traditionally be rosier than reality when it comes to trade deals. So these optimistic assumptions likely mask the actual economic results the Pacific Rim trade agreement would bring. It’s probably worse than this document suggests.
Those aren’t the only concerns. The TPP would empower more foreign corporations to sue the U.S. government in private tribunals so they could demand taxpayer compensation for American laws they claim violate their rights under the trade agreement.
This deal is only a good one for big business. Voters in Michigan recognized it when they voted in March, and more elected officials are recognizing it now as well. The Teamsters urge lawmakers to stick to those convictions and defeat the TPP if it comes to a vote.
Because despite their victory, the Central States Pension Plan is still projected to run out of money within the next 20 years, said Mike Walden, chairman of the Northeast Ohio Committee to Protect Pensions from Cuyahoga Falls.
"We need to keep contacting our congress people and representatives," Walden said to more than 100 retirees at the retiree's monthly meeting at Local 100 in Evendale last week. "This is just the beginning of a long battle for us." Walden called for the retirees to contact the U.S. Labor Department and ask Thomas Nyhan, director of the Central States Pension Fund, to resign his post.
To complicate matters, more private retirement plans locally are beginning to file critical and declining status notices to the Labor Department, regarding the soon-to-be insolvency of their plans.
“We’ve taken just normal, everyday grandmothers and grandfathers, and we’ve made citizen lobbyists out of them,” said Wes Epperson, a retired member of Teamsters Local 41 in Kansas City, “and it’s been because of necessity.”
The movement won a first-step victory on May 6, when Special Master Kenneth Feinberg recommended that the Treasury Department deny the Central States Pension Fund’s bid to slash 207,000 Teamsters' benefits by up to 70 percent.
“I must congratulate the retirees for reaching out to us and making sure that their voices were heard,” Feinberg told reporters. “I can tell you that listening to the retirees and what they had to say, of course that influenced.”
Thousands of Teamsters, retirees, and spouses helped win this reprieve through grassroots lobbying—rallying, writing letters to Congress, and packing the hearings Feinberg held around the country.