By JoAnne Powers, August 5, 2016
United Steelworkers members at Carrier Corporation in Indianapolis are up in arms about the company’s plan to relocate manufacturing out of the country. In February, the booming HVAC company announced plans to move 1400 jobs to Monterey, Mexico by next year, where workers will be paid three dollars an hour. Indiana politicians and union leaders on Thursday cited the North American Free Trade Agreement as a major factor leading to the loss of family-supporting union jobs. USW President Leo Gerard described NAFTA and its ilk as “rotten trade deals” which fuel a race to the bottom in terms of wages and working conditions.
While families and communities in the U.S. have been devastated by manufacturing jobs moving to Mexico since the passage of NAFTA in 1994, Mexico’s economy has also suffered massively. Manuel Perez-Rocha, an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., says that NAFTA and the similar Central America Free Trade Agreement amount to conclusion between the wealthy elite of all countries involved, at the expense of workers:
[Manuel Perez-Rocha]: “Contrary to what Mister Trump likes to portray, it is not one country that benefits and the other is affected. He continues to say that Mexico has won with this NAFTA or this Free Trade Agreement, and it is completely incorrect. It is the wealthy classes in both countries, also in Central America, that benefit with NAFTA and CAFTA. These are agreements to enrich the power of big corporations, to subject the state or the governments to their demands, and to have them guaranteed profits.”
Among the mechanisms NAFTA and CAFTA use to guarantee profits is the now-infamous Investor State Dispute Settlement, or ISDS:
[Manuel Perez-Rocha]: “Corporations can take governments and have taken governments to international unaccountable tribunals, mainly the tribunal here in Washington at the World Bank, the international Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes. Mexico has many cases and many Central American countries have lost cases by which corporations are suing governments because of loss of expected profits due mostly to public regulations in favor of the public interest or in favor of the environment. So when these countries have their profits affected, they enact the investment protection rules that protect their investments. Overall, these are agreements completely designed to favor corporations.”
The AFL-CIO vowed Thursday afternoon to continue the fight against trade deals that outsource U.S. jobs to Mexico and other low-wage countries. Citizen’s Trade Campaign Executive Director Arthur Stamoulis says there is still a chance to stop things from getting worse for American workers:
[Arther Stamoulis]: “Here in the United States we have the amazing ability right now to stop the expansion of this NAFTA/CAFTA/TPP trade model by killing the TPP. The vote in Congress right now is looking remarkably close. If TPP proponents think they have a chance of getting the TPP through lame duck, they’re going to try to do that. But if, you know, working people continue to push back, continue calling, pressuring their U.S. Representative, we absolutely can win this fight and start the process in the coming years of getting of our existing trade agreements and pushing a new model for international trade that actually benefits working people here in the United States and around the world.”