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Another View: Secret trade deals cost us good jobs

Rep. Paul Ryan, third on right, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, leads a delegation of U.S. lawmakers talking with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo last Thursday about the U.S.-led Trans Pacific Partnership.
Rep. Paul Ryan, third on right, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, leads a delegation of U.S. lawmakers talking with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo last Thursday about the U.S.-led Trans Pacific Partnership. The Associated Press

Transparency is a fundamental pillar of democracy.

Yet, in the case of pending legislation authorizing fast-track authority for trade agreements, politicians and corporate lobbyists are pushing to eliminate transparency in favor of expediency (“Put Pacific trade deal on the fast track,” Viewpoints, Feb. 18).

That’s a dangerous course with major implications for our economy. Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority has resulted in secretly negotiated agreements that benefit big corporations at the expense of workers and their families.

The job-loss numbers directly related to seriously flawed trade deals are staggering. Between 2000 and 2014, American manufacturing employment dropped by 4 million jobs. And these were family-supporting jobs that strengthened communities.

Since Congress approved permanent normal trade relations with China, the growth in the U.S. trade deficit with China has resulted in the net loss of more than 3.2 million jobs, including nearly 600,000 in California, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

That’s 3.2 million hardworking Americans who, through no fault of their own, found themselves ripped from the middle class and forced into low-wage jobs or, even worse, long-term joblessness.

The latest secretly negotiated trade deal, the Trans Pacific Partnership, was cooked up by lobbyists and government bureaucrats. There’s no reason to believe it will result in anything other than a further decline in American jobs.

The benefits of “free trade” have been, at best, illusory. At worst, the empty promises from politicians and big corporations have fueled historic inequality and a hollowing-out of our middle class.

We must do better. Stopping the outsourcing of good, American jobs should be a top priority for our nation’s leaders. It’s time to reform trade negotiations so that workers in California and around the country are no longer getting the short end of the stick.

Fast track needs to be replaced with a new process for negotiating and approving trade deals that increases congressional and public oversight so we can harvest the benefits of expanded trade without gutting the middle class and undermining basic tenets of American democracy.

We urge Reps. Doris Matsui and Ami Bera and all members of Congress to reject fast-track authority so that future trade deals help, not harm, California’s economy.

Art Pulaski is executive secretary-treasurer and chief officer of the 2.1 million-member California Labor Federation.

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