President Barack Obama has called on Congress to grant him fast-track trade authority for his Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement. The administration insists the authority, which would give Congress only an up-or-down vote on the agreement, is needed to get the best possible terms from its trade partners along the Pacific Rim.
During his 2008 presidential campaign, Obama promised to renegotiate and improve the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). But it now looks like what he really meant is to expand on that flawed trade model and extend it to other countries.
Twenty-one years after NAFTA and four years after Obama’s 2011 U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement, there is abundant data documenting how this trade model has been disastrous for most U.S. businesses, farmers and workers.......................................
U.S. wages, overall, have barely increased in real terms since 1974 — the year fast track was enacted — even as U.S. worker productivity has doubled.
When asked how U.S. workers will fare against Vietnam’s 58-cents-an-hour average minimum wage, Washington trade officials hide behind the wording of the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s labor chapter. Yet this section only rehashes labor standards that President George W. Bush included in his pacts with Colombia, Panama and Peru, which, according to a new Government Accountability Office report, have failed miserably in improving working conditions in free-trade partner countries.
At the same time, cuts in consumer goods prices have not been enough to offset the losses to middle-class wages under these agreements. U.S. workers without college degrees have lost roughly 12.2 percent of their wages — even after accounting for the benefits of cheaper imported goods. This means less, not more, consumer demand for U.S. manufacturing and service-sector firms.
Obama administration trade officials say that this is old news. They insist their agreements are different.
But Obama’s 2011 trade deal with South Korea, which serves as the template for the new Trans-Pacific Partnership, has resulted in a 50 percent jump in the U.S. trade deficit with South Korea in its first two years. This equates to 50,000 U.S. jobs lost. Small-businesses’ exports to South Korea have also declined sharply, falling 14 percent. In just one month, October 2014, the United States had a $3-billion trade deficit in goods with South Korea, the highest on record.