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GR Press editorial endorses more anti-worker trade policies

October 10, 2011

Last week, a Grand Rapids Press editorial gave an endorsement to the proposed free trade deals between the US, South Korea, Colombia and Panama.

The editorial suggests that these trade deals would “unleash” American products for these countries and possibly reduce the deficit. The editorial also suggests that these trade agreements would be good for Michigan, especially South Korea because it would open markets for the auto industry.

There is some mention of human rights abuses in Colombia, but the Press editors simply state that more trade can be a positive influence in reducing the brutal anti-union campaign in Colombia.

The editorial ends by stating, “In a political climate where the economy and jobs are the over-riding concerns, approving these trade deals should be an easy sell.”

As is generally the case, the Press endorses business agreements with the usual argument of jobs. However, the Press writers offer no concrete evidence or sources to support their claims, rather they assume that since Michigan unemployment is high that people will support such trade agreements.

However, there are other perspectives on this issue, such as those of the people at Public Citizen. One of the best sources on trade policy, Public Citizen says of the proposed free trade deals:

“Passing the Korea deal would kill U.S. jobs. Even official government studies show it will increase the U.S. trade deficit. Passing the Colombia deal would kill any leverage Colombian union, Afro-Colombian and other community leaders and their U.S. union and civil society friends and allies have to stop the murders, forced displacements and other acts of political violence that dominate life in Colombia. And passing the Panama deal would kill our ability to fight tax havens without risking attack by corporations under new privileges established in the pact.”

The Press editorial also fails to acknowledge that NAFTA and subsequent trade agreements meant a significant job loss for Michigan, not a job gain. In addition, this kind of trade agreement, which is predicated on opening up foreign markets to US manufactured goods doesn’t fit well within the new “buy local” mantra. How can sending products made in Michigan to South Korea promote sustainability?

In the end the Press editorial doesn’t really present a case for more free trade agreements, it reflects a pro-business position and it doesn’t provide any historical context on the impact that previous free trade agreements have had on Michigan.

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