By Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa
Published in the Detroit News, April 6, 2016
The Teamsters and many other pro-worker allies have written repeatedly about the devastating lasting effects of bad trade deals in Michigan and across the U.S. But during the presidential primary, the importance of the issue finally caught the nation’s attention.
Michigan voters across the political spectrum showed both the candidates and the media that concerns about lousy trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) can’t be ignored. Contrary to what the corporate elites have tried to make the political class believe, this is not a fringe issue.
Fifty-seven percent of Democrats and 55 percent of Republicans voting in the March 8 primary agreed with the statement “trade with other countries takes away U.S. jobs.” Those who saw through the unfair trade charade propagated by big business overwhelmingly supported the candidates who won in Michigan on both sides of the aisle.
Between 1994 and 2015, the Great Lakes State lost almost 232,000 manufacturing jobs, more than 28 percent of all such jobs statewide. Those good-paying union jobs aren’t recreated even when unemployment ticks down like it has in recent years.
So while this country can’t undo the past with NAFTA, it can prevent off-shoring tens of thousands of additional jobs that would result as part of the TPP if approved.
That message is spreading from coast to coast. Talk about bad trade deals like the TPP having become part of stump speeches for Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. Many now understand hard-working Americans are sick of lost jobs, less pay, unsafe food and products from overseas, more expensive medicine, and a dirtier environment that these trade agreements bring.
Even those in the nation’s capital seem to be catching on to it. They are hearing the will of the people, and it’s not in favor of this 12-nation Pacific Rim trade deal. The TPP, perhaps once considered a forgone conclusion for passage, is no such thing today.
Despite the efforts of supporters to frame this proposed agreement as the gold standard and one that would stick up for the interests of millions of workers in the U.S. and abroad, the TPP fails on all accounts. Now that the text is no longer secret, many are seeing the agreement does not hold up under scrutiny.
And as time passes, the problem will only get worse if TPP is enacted. A provision included in the document will allow other nations to sign onto the deal, extending its negative effects even further. TPP is the template for the future and its devastating effects could grow dramatically over time. It already includes 40 percent of the global economy.
But those in Congress still have a role in this deal. They can vote no if the trade pact comes to a vote later this year. The people have told lawmakers what they want. Soon we’ll find out if they are listening.