Letter: Beware Fast Track Agreements

Congress complains that bills sent by this president are thousands of pages long, and it would be irresponsible to vote on such legislation without time to review it , yet Congress is poised to consider “fast track” legislation for yet another free trade bill, which President Obama says will help the middle class.

Previous free trade bills enacted, such as NAFTA under Bill Clinton, have failed to open foreign markets, spurring a demand for American products, but in reality just opened an opportunity for American businesses to close factories in the United States, establish partnerships abroad with 39 countries and take advantage of the cheap labor in those countries, paying people less than $2 per day.

Previous free trade bills have nothing to do with “fair trade,” which was ignored during passage of these obviously one-sided bills, which encouraged the influx of foreign products without an equal amount of American products passing through foreign markets.

The net result has been that American businesses and investors recognized that they had an opportunity to engage in partnerships in Asia and Europe and take advantage of not only cheap labor, but avoid dealing with OSHA standards, the EPA, unions, retirement, healthcare and other worker benefits, and make huge profits by lowering costs and selling products cheaper back in the United States.

American factories are all but gone, and through this process, more American workers, especially middle-aged, semi-skilled, can find themselves without being able to “reinvent themselves” and without training programs, permanently laid off.

The loss of jobs fueled by NAFTA-like trade agreements will help produce another rise in unemployment, and these workers will exhaust their unemployment benefits and find themselves on welfare, criticized and shunned for being “lazy.” It’s unnecessary to remind everyone that during all this, American businesses under the terms of NAFTA received tax credits for every job they sent overseas.

It is my opinion, unless the new fast track free trade agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trans-Atlantic Partnership, are negotiated in a way that builds factories in these United States built on even fair trade policies, that giant sucking sound you hear will be another round of unemployment for American workers.

Richard Nielsen, Royal Palm Beach