The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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February 19, 2014

Fast-track trade will harm workers


Indeed, while these deals may have boosted corporate profits, they’ve been horrible for workers and the communities they live in. Minnesota has lost over 14,000 net jobs to NAFTA, including Midwest Electric, which just shifted production, and the 51 jobs that went with it, to Mexico last year.

Since we gave China most favored nation status under the WTO, our state has lost over 72,000 net jobs. Meanwhile, Minnesota alone has a trade deficit of over $12 billion annually. That’s money leaving our economy that boosts employment, but also generates revenue needed to fund schools and infrastructure. And it’s not just cheap plastic at Wal-Mart that’s being imported either. It’s cars, steel, grain, livestock and many of the other products that built our country in the 20th Century.

It should come as no surprise then that when the public finds out what is in these deals (like the ability of corporations to sue governments in extrajudicial trade court for “future expected profits”) they are wildly unpopular.

This is where fast-track comes in. The only way unpopular trade deals get approved is by taking Congress out of the picture. Fast-track means Congress gives up its constitutionally stated responsibility to oversee international trade, and instead agrees to an up or down vote with no amendments, limited debate and only 60 days to read through hundreds of thousands of pages of text. If you thought nobody bothered to read Obamacare before it passed, Nobody will read all of TPP.

We elect politicians to serve us and our interest. It’s their duty to make sure that every clause of every international agreement is in the best interest of working families in their district. Fast-track undermines that and undermines democracy.

It gives lobbyists for Wal-Mart and Vietnamese bureaucrats more power to determine the laws that affect us in Mankato than our own Rep. Tim Walz. That’s why I’m proud that Rep. Walz has joined with three quarters of Minnesota’s House delegation to join bipartisan efforts to oppose fast track.

Laura Askelin is president of the Southeast Minnesota Area Labor Council and a member of the Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition.

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