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AFL-CIO: U.S. Trade Policies Leave Working People, Communities Behind

It’s time to change our outdated trade policies, the AFL-CIO said. That means instituting real transparency and consultation, with the goal of balanced trade and shared prosperity.

The U.S. once "led the world in growing our middle class and creating the right conditions for inclusive economic growth. But beginning in the 1970s, the direction of U.S. trade, tax and global economic policy changed to policies that have concentrated wealth and political power in the hands of a few, gutted our manufacturing sector and left too many working people, their families and their communities behind," the AFL-CIO Executive Council said.

The AFL-CIO Executive Council challenged failed policies like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the Trade In Services Agreement (TISA) and the U.S.-China Bilateral Investment Treaty and pointed out that the evidence of U.S. trade policy failures is clear, from the latest record annual trade deficit with China ($318.4 billion in 2013) to a new proposal to classify American brand-name companies that offshore all of their production as "American manufacturers."

CWA President Larry Cohen outlined the "private corporate courts," or investor state dispute settlement process, that U.S. negotiators want to include in TPP and TTIP. These provisions would allow multinational corporations to challenge governments over public health, minimum wage, environmental regulations or other laws, raising the issue in a private tribunal that could then assess the citizens of the U.S. millions of dollars in penalties for disrupting the corporation's "anticipated profits."

And because these trade deals wouldn't get passed if ordinary citizens knew what was in them, they are negotiated in secret, with a "fast track" process that allows for no amendments by members of Congress.

It's time to change our outdated trade policies, the AFL-CIO said. That means instituting real transparency and consultation, with the goal of balanced trade and shared prosperity. "The status quo approach is unacceptable. Make no mistake – the labor movement will continue to oppose last century's NAFTA-model Fast Track and NAFTA-model trade agreements."