Editor’s Note: In Cleveland yesterday, President Barack Obama delivered a major address on the economy, jobs, manufacturing, trade and Fast Track. Here’s Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga’s response.
President Obama has enacted policies that have benefited Ohio’s economy and helped strengthen our middle class. His decision to rescue the auto industry has meant the world to many local economies across the state, saving thousands of family-supporting, middle-class jobs. It was the right decision at the right time, a decision made for all the right reasons.
The president has also protected our jobs, particularly in manufacturing, by placing tariffs on countries such as China and South Korea for illegally dumping products in the U.S. However, his stance, stated again today in Cleveland, to gain “Fast Track” trade authority from Congress to negotiate a “Trans Pacific Partnership” pact presents the same flawed approach to global trade that has cost the U.S. and Ohio hundreds of thousands of good jobs.
rade can be beneficial and create jobs. It can also be harmful and destroy jobs. The U.S. and Ohio’s import/export deficits represent lost jobs and less than full employment, which means downward pressure on wages. Because of poorly crafted deals that occur without input from Congress and its constituents, Ohio has lost significantly more jobs than it has gained form trade. We’ve seen the harm and are still looking for the benefits from the global trade pacts of the last two decades.
The president and Congress should work together to create a new model for global trade that places an emphasis on raising wages and shared prosperity. Any trade deal must also confront reality and stop currency manipulation from countries party to global trade deals to gain market advantage. To date, issues like this have gone unaddressed—a problem that will only worsen in a deal with no regard for state, regional and local interests that would otherwise be considered in an open and democratic trade negotiation.
This president has consistently sided with Ohio workers on some of the most important and politically risky decisions that have come before him. It would be a shame for him to abandon that allegiance now, and potentially roll back the gains that have been made though his steadfast advocacy for the American worker. I call on the president and all members of Congress to hold a free and open process in considering the biggest trade deal in history, one that will cover a quarter of the world’s population. Anything less would be antithetical to the legacy the president has built so far.