The State Journal's editorial "Get behind Obama trade deal" on Dec. 15 urged readers to support the Korea-United States so-called "free trade agreement." This agreement, based on the failed NAFTA model, was signed by President George W. Bush in 2007, but never submitted to Congress.
A supplemental deal announced earlier this month fixes none of the major problems of the Bush agreement. It therefore should be opposed by all who care about our economy, jobs in America and expanding world trade in a manner that benefits all workers and all our trading partners — not just the short-term profits of large multinational corporations.
What are the problems with this trade agreement? First, the U.S. International Trade Commission estimated that it would further increase our massive trade deficit. While the Obama administration claims that the agreement will support (note: "support," not create) 70,000 jobs, that figure counts only increased exports from the deal, not the larger growth in imports that will destroy jobs.
In fact, the Economic Policy Institute estimates that we'll lose as many as 159,000 jobs — and increase our trade deficit by $16 billion over the next seven years.
Second, the Korea trade agreement continues the NAFTA-style ban on "Buy American" or "Buy Wisconsin" government purchasing policies so that we cannot even legally decide to spend our own tax dollars to create jobs here in Wisconsin or in the United States.
Third, this agreement would actually give foreign corporations more rights than American firms by allowing them to demand compensation from our tax dollars for claims that our federal, state or local laws undercut their profits. These legal attacks on our wage laws, health and safety or environmental requirements are not heard in American courts, but rather in international tribunals at the World Bank and United Nations.
Opposition to NAFTA-style "free trade" agreements is now bipartisan. Solid majorities of Americans say that "free trade" agreements cost us jobs. Many of the Republicans who were just elected to Congress campaigned against more job-offshoring trade deals.
Members of the tea party are among the strongest opponents of NAFTA-style trade agreements. Libertarian Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, called on Congress to oppose the Korea trade agreement when it was announced.
The Korea agreement may be good for some multi-national corporations, but it's not good for American workers. We need to make sure it is rejected by Congress when it comes up for a vote — perhaps as soon as February.
Newby is president of the Wisconsin Fair Trade Campaign and president emeritus of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO.