Lipinski: We Need Fair Trade that Creates U.S. Jobs

Southwest News-Herald
May 20, 2011
By Congressman Dan Lipinski

American workers are the best in the world.

For as long as I have represented the Third District, I have worked to make sure that trade occurs on a level playing field, creates American jobs, and benefits American workers and companies.

My view is simple. I believe that in order to be truly free, trade must be truly fair.

Free trade does not mean the freedom for countries to manipulate their currency to artificially lower the price of their exports. It does not mean the freedom to demand access to a company’s valuable intellectual property in return for opening markets. It does not mean the freedom to dump goods priced below the cost of production onto U.S. markets while establishing technical barriers to trade for American producers. And it does not mean the freedom to export unsafe products to unsuspecting consumers.

Unfortunately, ever since the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement, we have seen a dramatic expansion of unfair trade that harms our country. Between 2000 and the onset of the recession, our trade deficit nearly doubled. Little wonder that millions of good-paying, middle-class manufacturing jobs vanished at the same time.

Yet Congress likely will soon be asked to support a new free trade agreement with South Korea that fails to incorporate the painful lessons we have learned about the dangers of poorly crafted trade deals.

Once again, we are faced with an agreement whose supporters claim it will create jobs. But the same people made the same claims about NAFTA and the inclusion of China in the World Trade Organization. Rather than creating jobs, this deal – originally drafted and agreed to by President Bush’s administration – will cost America jobs. It is a recipe for more offshoring. That may benefit a few multinational corporations bent on moving production overseas and taking advantage of tax loopholes, but it won’t aid most Americans or Third District residents. In fact, one study found the agreement could result in the loss of 159,000 U.S. jobs.

The South Korea Free Trade Agreement would allow South Korean companies to assemble Chinese parts and export them to the U.S. on favorable terms, providing Chinese manufacturers with yet another unfair advantage. It opens the door to the importation of products made in North Korea, one of the world’s worst human-rights offenders. It creates obstacles for American companies seeking to hold South Korean corporations responsible for engaging in unfair trade. It does not address currency manipulation. And it fails on all these counts despite the fact that America had the upper hand in the negotiations, owing to its huge size and importance as an export market.

To take just one example of the impact the proposed FTA would have, the government’s official evaluation found that Korean auto exports to the U.S. will increase by nearly five times more than American auto exports to Korea under the agreement.

If this deal does not improve dramatically, I will not support it. Just as I did when I voted against the Wall Street bailout, I will cast my vote based on what is best for the middle-class and Third District residents, not special interests.  

While I don’t believe in protectionism that props up failing industries, delays the inevitable, and hurts both workers and consumers, I do believe in protecting our country and my constituents against unfair trade that destroys jobs. American workers remain the most innovative, productive, and resilient in the world, able to compete and win against those in any country. But the competition must occur on a level playing field, and our government must fight to make sure that it does. We cannot afford to repeat the mistakes and job losses of the last decade.

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