Pittsburgh, PA- With only weeks to go before a major vote, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), joined by Pittsburgh workers, discussed how “fast tracking” an emerging trade deal could impact jobs and wages in Western Pennsylvania. Congress is set to consider Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation that could pave the way for another NAFTA-style deal. Casey has secured provisions in the legislation to better protect the steel industry and its workers yet the overall legislation could allow countries with low wages and poor labor and human rights records to diminish the benefits. Pennsylvania has lost more than 300,000 manufacturing jobs since NAFTA. Casey was joined by Mayor John Fetterman of Braddock; Leo Gerard, International President of the United Steel Workers; and Jim Johnston, incoming President of United Steelworkers Local #1219 in Braddock.
“While many details of this trade deal remain unknown, the few things we know of raise serious concerns about the potential impact on Pennsylvania’s workers,” said Senator Casey. “Someone needs to explain how opening the floodgates with countries that have a $3, $2, and sometimes non-existent minimum wage is going to benefit wages and economic growth in Pennsylvania. My constituents have been sold a bill of goods on these deals in the past and I am hard pressed to see how this works out any better for them.”
Pennsylvania’s past experience with trade deals questions the economic benefits of these massive trade agreements, especially on jobs. In a recent trade agreement with South Korea, proponents argued that the agreement would boost American exports by $10 billion a year. According to reports, the reality is quite different. American exports have only increase by mere $1 billion while Korean imports have surged to more than $12 billion a year.
By most measures, Japan is the second largest currency manipulator in the world. The value of the yen relative to the dollar is now lower than at any time in the past 8 years, and has fallen about fifty percent in the past 3 years alone. This hurts U.S. exports, and American jobs. Nationwide, the trade deficit with Japan displaced 896,600 jobs. Pennsylvania has lost more than 40,000 jobs to this trade deficit. Pennsylvania ranked 7th in terms of net jobs displaced by the trade deficit with Japan.
8 of the 11 countries with which the U.S. is negotiating TPP have minimum wages lower than the United States minimum hourly wage of $7.25. Seven of these countries have minimum wages $3/hour, or no minimum wage at all. Two countries have minimum wages below $1/hour. This is a prime example of how this potential trade deal could undermine U.S. jobs.