“NAFTA of the Pacific” Negotiations Begin Tuesday

This week Chicago will host the eighth round of negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Free Trade Agreement, which has been dubbed the NAFTA of the Pacific. If this deal were to come to fruition, it would mean more low-wage competition for U.S. businesses and as a result, more job loss.

Tuesday marks the first day in negotiations between the United States, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, New Zealand, Australia, Peru and Chile. In advance of the negotiations, hundreds of protestors gathered in Chicago on Labor Day to voice their opposition to the proposed trade deal. The protestors recognized the fact that the new trade deal is likely to have a similar effect to NAFTA if it is enacted.

“They’ve shipped our jobs overseas. They’ve reduced the tax base, they’ve driven down the wages and benefits for the jobs that are left. We’ve had enough,” said Arthur Stamoulis, Executive Director of Citizen Trade Campaign.

The Trans-Pacific agreement would expose vulnerable U.S. industries to even more countries where multinational corporations can exploit cheap labor. For example the per capita income in Vietnam was only $1,068 in 2010, according to the U.S. State Department. This compares with a per capita income of $40,584 for the United States in the same year.

Not only do many of the nations involved have low wages, but labor standards in many of the countries are far below the hard-won conditions that exist in the United States. By opening trade with these countries, we would be participating either in the mass exodus of jobs to these countries, or a race to the bottom in both wages and standards here in this country.

This agreement would not only serve those countries involved in the current negotiations, but it would also serve as a “docking agreement” for other countries to sign onto in the future. This could include countries such as India, Taiwan and China. By offering concessions in an agreement such as this, it makes it more likely that future countries could sign on with terms that are unfavorable to the United States.

The United States has enough problems maintaining a strong employment situation under its current trade agreements. The pending free trade agreements with Panama, South Korea and Colombia will further damage the jobs situation in this country if passed, and if the Trans-Pacific agreement were to come to fruition, the plight of the American worker could be damaged even further yet.

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