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Trans-Pacific Partnership: The Fast Track to Poverty

American workers need a new trade philosophy, one that protects them and puts people first, not corporations. Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will be a disaster.

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What that means is that U.S. corporations contribute to the trade deficit by manufacturing in Mexico and importing their products into America. Before NAFTA, the United States had a small trade surplus with Mexico. Now it’s a trade deficit. A huge one.

The Korean trade deal, which took effect nearly two years ago, is no better. Like NAFTA, its promoters said it would boost exports and create jobs. In its first year, U.S. exports to Korea fell  8.3 percent. Imports from Korea rose, increasing the trade deficit with Korea  by nearly 40 percent. That cost Americans  40,000 jobs.

This is not what Americans want from trade. And yet, the United States is negotiating a NAFTA-style deal called the TPP with 11 Pacific Rim nations, including Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. The negotiations are occurring in secret. Average citizens have no access to what’s going on. Without significant changes, TPP will just be another American factory shuttering, dream shattering trade deal.

Of course, the corporations that stand to profit and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce support the current TPP scheme, as they did the other job-destroying trade deals. And so do corporate politicians.

Three of them – U.S. Rep. Dave Camp and Senators Orrin Hatch and Max Baucus –  introduced legislation last week to speed passage of TPP – put it on the fast track. Under fast track, Congress excuses itself from its Constitutional duty to supervise international trade.

The fast track bill empowers the President to sign a secretly devised trade pact before Congress votes on it. Fast track also limits Congressional debate to 20 hours and forbids amendments.

In addition to the anniversary of NAFTA, last week was the 50 th anniversary of Lyndon B. Johnson’s call for a War on Poverty.

In that address to Congress, Johnson also appealed for more balanced trade, for foreign countries granted access to the American market to open their markets to American goods. That’s what Americans want from trade – fairness. They know they can compete when given a level playing field.

Americans want trade deals to ensure equity. They want trade policies that increase American innovation, American manufacturing and American jobs.

They want trade policies that help America win President Obama’s war on income inequality, not schemes that grant special favors to corporations at the expense of people.

Leo W. Gerard president of the United Steelworkers union. President Barack Obama appointed him to the President’s Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations.  Follow him on Twitter: @USWBlogger

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