SAN DIEGO (PAI) -- The AFL-CIO is proposing a 7-part agenda for changing U.S. trade and a “strategic pause” halting bad trade pacts that lack labor rights is just one section of it.
In proposals that go far beyond what either Democratic presidential hopeful -- much less GOP presidential nominee John McCain -- says, the federation’s agenda covers everything from currency rules to dealing with Colombia’s murders of unionists, from “insanely inefficient and unfair” corporate taxes to global combat of global warming, and from import safety to trade law enforcement.
It even wants transparency in investment rules applied to foreign governments’ sovereign wealth funds that are investing in, or taking over, U.S. businesses.
“While trade issues have recently taken center stage in the Democratic primary debate, too often politicians an the media treat our trade problem as a separate and secondary issue that can be treated with small tweaks in trade policy or worker displacement programs,” said the federation’s Executive Council, meeting in San Diego.
“To the contrary, our struggle to compete successfully in the global economy is intricately connected to the other challenges the U.S. economy and working families are facing,” the March 4 statement added. Its proposals to fix trade problems included:
* A strategic pause in new trade pacts “until we can build a comprehensive new trade policy that will support creation of good jobs at home.” That pause applies to both bilateral trade treaties, few of which have enforceable workers’ rights, and a new World Trade Organization agreement.
In a separate statement, the federation declared it would work to have Congress defeat the anti-worker GOP Bush regime’s proposed “free trade” pact with Colombia. It cited the lack of labor rights there, the pact’s lack of enforcement, unsolved murders of 2,500 unionists -- most of them by Right Wing “paramilitaries” -- and the Colombian government’s “systematic attack on workers’ rights and on unions.”
* “Urgent attention” to “our unbalanced trade relationship” with China. It urged lawmakers to approve “comprehensive trade bill” against Chinese currency manipulation and Chinese government subsides to its industry and for stronger U.S. trade enforcement.
* Reforming the corporate tax system, which the fed said gives U.S. businesses a $7 billion-$9 billion yearly subsidy -- through a tax exemption for offshore income -- to
move jobs offshore. “Our current system taxes profits earned on exports while subsidizing offshoring of jobs. We need a complete overhaul of our corporate tax system to address this competitive disadvantage. This outdated loophole must be closed.”
* Stronger, more effective trade law enforcement, including measures “to ensure WTO negotiations and actions do not undermine our ability to use our laws effectively.”
* Ensuring import safety. Though the federation statement did not say so, the main culprits in unsafe imports -- of cat food, toys and even smaller items -- are the main producer of dangerous items in dangerous working conditions, China, and the main importer of Chinese goods, the violently anti-union anti-worker giant Wal-Mart.
* Transparency -- meaning applying the same financial disclosure standards -- to funds set up by foreign governments to invest in U.S. firms, as well as firms in other developed nations. Such Sovereign Wealth Funds hold half of the stock, for example, in a Cincinnati chemical company that both mistreats its Steel Workers-represented workers and severely fouls the area environment. Dubai Ports World, which tried to buy six U.S. ports last year, before retreating under fire, is also government-owned.
“These funds are (foreign) government-directed and their investments may dramatically reshape our markets. We cannot allow them to jeopardize the jobs and livelihoods of our members,” the federation statement said.
* Ensuring that all nations act against climate change. This has been a key complaint of several U.S. unions with the Kyoto climate change treaty. The pact imposed virtually no environmental controls on the increasingly befouled atmosphere created by India, other developing nations, and especially China. Particulates from China now account, federal studies say, for much of the pollution over the west coast.
“We need to ensure that when we act domestically to address the challenge of climate change, our trading partners also take commensurate actions. Otherwise, we will lose our own jobs as production moves to the least-regulated countries and global emissions will actually worsen,” the federation warned. “WTO rules must accommodate trade-related measures to coordinate responses to global environmental challenges.”
“We ace enormous solutions, but politically viable solutions are within reach. No single action will get us out of the hole we’re in” on trade issues “but addressing the tax, currency and trade policy pieces points us in the right direction,” the federation concluded.