Thursday, July 08, 2010

Progress (?) On Trade

In Racine, Wisconsin on Wednesday, June 30 at what Reuters termed "a campaign-style appearance," President Obama explained

For example, if China has a currency that's undervalued, that makes our exports more expensive. It makes their imports cheaper. So we've been putting pressure on them to say, you know what, let's make sure that we're not favoring one side or the other in this trade deal.

Reuters commented

China has announced plans to allow its currency to be more flexible, and Obama said at a weekend Group of 20 meeting in Toronto he believed the yuan would rise significantly.

This would be very big news, indeed. Our trade deficit "is mostly oil and China now" and the NYT reported in May

The U.S. trade deficit rose in March for the first time since last July as the global recession cut sharply into sales of American exports, The Associated Press reported Tuesday from Washington. The politically sensitive deficit with China increased.

Apparently committed to a robust export sector,

Obama said he’d instructed U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk “to begin discussions to resolve outstanding issues” on a free trade agreement with South Korea before Obama’s visit to Seoul in November.

He said he hoped to resolve that agreement, as well as agreements with Panama and Colombia, for Congress to consider as soon as possible.

“We’re working to resolve outstanding issues with the free trade agreements with those key partners, and we’re focused on submitting them as soon as possible for congressional consideration,” Obama said

Nonetheless, the AFL-CIO reports, worldwide 101 trade unionists were murdered in 2009 and "Colombia- where nearly half (48) of the murders took place—continues to be the most dangerous place to belong to a union."

Moreover, Michael Whitney of Firedoglake notes

Forty-eight union members were killed in Colombia in 2009, 49 in 2008, and another 49 in 2007. All in all, more than 4,000 union members have been killed in Colombia in the last twenty years.

That was considered a worthy issue back in 2008 when

Sen. Barack Obama promised to stand firm in his opposition to the Colombia Free Trade Agreement on Wednesday–days after President Bush asked Congress to quickly pass the trade deal–in a speech to rally the union vote at the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO’s annual convention.

The Illinois senator said he would oppose the Colombia Free Trade Agreement “because the violence against unions in Colombia would make a mockery of the very labor protections that we have insisted be included in these kinds of agreements.”

President Obama would do well to remember those words, and the sentiment it reflected, before he reaches final agreement with South Korea, Panama, and Colombia. Even before this severe recession, middle-class jobs already were in decline for reasons which included an obsession with free trade, reflected in passsage of the NAFTA. We cannot sanction violence against unionists, nor neglect to include provisions which would safeguard American jobs, when negotiating trade agreements.

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