Mr. President, welcome to Washington-the Evergreen State! A state of vast natural resources as well as human resources.
As you may know, Washington State farmers and ranchers feed the nation and the world with our crops of apples, raspberries, wheat, potatoes, dairy and cattle raising, oyster harvesting and our growing wine industry.
Through our ports, goods from the vast Pacific Rim come into the US, linking 1 in 3 jobs in WA State to global trade. As you probably already know WA State is the highest per capita exporting state in the country.
However our proud labor force has been suffering in this current economic climate.
Over the years, much of Seattle’s prosperity has come from the aerospace industry, and Boeing, in particular. However, with each new airplane model, the domestic content of airplanes drops and more local jobs are being outsourced. As jobs and technology move offshore, we build up the aerospace industrial capacity in other countries, making them more competitive in the long run and making us less competitive.
We are blessed with one of the world’s greatest natural and renewable resources, our forests. For years Washington State produced more wood and paper products than most any state in the nation and any country in the world. No longer. Unfair trade agreements, currency manipulation and subsidies have enabled our paper industry to be off-shored to China. In the process the environmental gains in the industry have been lost.
Many politicians say in order to compete in the world market place U.S. workers must become better educated. Current trade policies are not about an educated workforce; the policies are about corporate profits that include cheap labor with little or no oversight with regard to labor and environmental standards. Washington State alone has lost thousands of wood, pulp and paper jobs. As long as unfair trade agreements exist we will continue to see a “jobless” recovery and U.S. forestry related workers will continue to be jobless. Multi-national corporations like Weyerhaeuser and International Paper will continue to take US tax payers money in subsidies and invest in China and elsewhere.
From 2001-2008 WA State has lost 44,000 manufacturing jobs in trade to China, on top of the over 14,000 jobs lost since the implementation of NAFTA and other trade agreements. Job loss continues with 7,595 new Trade Adjustment Assistance claims in 2009 alone.
Mr. President, you campaigned on trade reform. You called for renegotiation of NAFTA and other trade deals, you pledged to reform investment provisions and to incorporate enforceable labor provisions. We ask you to follow through on your campaign promises!
Mr. President, trade reform does not mean pushing forward South Korea or other NAFTA-style trade deals through Congress. Washingtonians are worried that these Bush negotiated free trade agreements will exacerbate the U.S. trade deficit, further compromise our already weakening manufacturing base, and threaten a worse global crisis in the future.
In addition, at a time when financial regulation is so desperately needed to avoid another global meltdown, the Korea FTA incorporates the most extreme financial deregulation of any FTA to date. The agreement commits its signatory countries to refrain from limiting the size of financial institutions, banning toxic derivatives or controlling destabilizing capital flights and floods! While Wall-Street lobbyists may line up behind such provisions, it spells disaster for the rest of us.
Mr. President, Washington State is one of the most trade dependent states in the US-therefore we are disproportionately impacted by bad trade policies. Our workers, farmers, and small-business owners have been calling to end the NAFTA nightmare and fix trade policy for years.
As you are here on behalf of Senator Patty Murray, you should know that the WA State Democratic Party at their recent convention in June resolved to support the Trade Reform Accountability Development and Employment Act (TRADE Act HR 3012/S.2821) and oppose pending trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. This is a roadmap to trade reform that benefits workers in WA State as well as around the world and we encourage you and Senator Murray to support this important call to action.
Mr. President, we are asking you to hold to your campaign promises of real and substantive trade reform. Upon your return to the other Washington, we would ask you to use the TRADE Act supported by the majority of your party in the House (with 145 co-sponsors) as a template for future trade deals, including the Trans Pacific Partnership currently under negotiation.
Again welcome to Washington State!
Gregory Pallesen, Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers (AWPPW)
Stan Sorscher, Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA)