OR-1: While Bonamici dithers on trade, Witt and Avakian stake out strong, progressive stands

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

At yesterday's Oregon AFL-CIO debate featuring the major candidates in Oregon-1, a number of questions were about the impact of foreign trade deals on American workers.

As I was live-tweeting it, rapidly banging out summaries of each candidates' responses, it started to become clear that Suzanne Bonamici wasn't willing to stake out a strong position on trade.

For example, here was one series:

  • Bonamici asked: What would you do to stop Colombia trade agreement?

  • Bonamici: Make sure trade agreements have job & enviro protections. (Doesn't say she'll oppose, though. Hmm...)

  • Witt: Trust me on labor's position on fair trade b/c I have lived fair trade for 30 years. Spent 10 years on unfair lumber trade.

  • Avakian: Trust me on fair trade b/c I've stood w/ labor "in every court in this state".

  • Avakian: "These trade agreements aren't just foreign policy, it's about people in this room & in our communities. I will not forget!"

Now, those were paraphrases, and I was typing fast - but the Oregonian's Jeff Mapes noticed the same thing, and tried to pin Bonamici down:

Bonamici refused to take a stand on the proposed trade agreements at a forum held during the labor federation's annual convention in Eugene. ...

"I'm not telling the unions I'll oppose the trade agreements and I'm not telling Nike that I'll support them, either...I know how critically important they are to the businesses in the district and I know what a concern they are to the unions, so I'm very carefully weighing the policy. Obviously, I'll have a position on that at some point."

By contrast, Avakian:

Avakian told the AFL-CIO that the "people of Northwest Oregon really deserve to know where every candidate on this stage stands on this important issue" and said his opposition to the trade pacts was clear.

"I say no to any trade agreement that is going to take a job away from an American worker and ship it overseas," Avakian said.

And Witt:

"You can trust that I will uphold organized labor's position on fair trade because I have lived and breathed fair trade for 30 years," he said.

This isn't a purely academic question either. In the coming months, trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama are likely to come up for votes.

Now, certainly, there are folks around here that will support Bonamici's position (or, more accurately, her ambivalence). Dave Porter ("the Mandarin guy"), for example, declared on his blog that "Bonamici wins this debate on trade policy."

But if you believe that these trade deals are unequivocally bad deals for Oregon workers, then it seems to me that your candidate is one of the two guys named Brad.

Meanwhile, I guess we'll just wait for Suzanne Bonamici to figure out what her position is.

Comments

  • (Show?)

    Full disclosure: My firm built Brad Avakian's campaign website. I speak only for myself.

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    The 1st Congressional District is the hardest hit in the state, and one of the hardest hit in the entire nation, by misguided trade policies. A study came out just last week showing that the district lost a net 20,000 jobs to China between 2001 and 2010 alone.

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    Not sure if the primary purpose of this post is to discuss OR-1 politics (I have no dog in that fight) or to discuss international trade policy. As to the latter, the proposed US - Columbia trade pact seems pretty important to Eastern OR grain farmers and others in Oregon who grow, make or sell products to be exported to Columbia. Canada has already enacted a bilateral trade agreement with Columbia, and it appears to me that if the US does not act promptly to adopt its own bilateral accord with Columbia, Canada's farmers and other exporters are going to take over the US share. And for my own information, what sort of jobs in OR-1 are likely to be "exported" to Columbia? Hard to imagine.

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        a, i don't "back" Bonamici. i've told everyone who asks that i think it's a toss-up between her & Avakian. they're both great, just in different ways. if i voted in CD1, i'd vote for her simply to add another woman to Congress: that would be my tie-breaker. otherwise, they're equally deserving of a vote.

        Kari does not get the same privileges other contributors get. i'm not being paid by any of the campaigns. he is. i didn't say he shouldn't write about this; i said he needs to take more care in the words he chooses.

        which, btw, is the same advice he has given to me several times in the past. and he was right.

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        Kari, did you really think you wouldn't get a little push back? You have the right to write whatever you please, but I'd just as soon see Democrats get snarky with Republicans, and not each other.

        And by the way, I have no preference in this race. I like them all.

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          No disagreement with anyone who a) has a different opinion about the impact of trade policy, or b) draws different conclusions about what happened at the debate. That's the point of a blog - to discuss and debate.

          But I don't think I "went over the line" in describing my honestly-held view of what I think happened on Tuesday.

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        nothing silly about my opinion - it's my opinion. you're having trouble picking your words today, it seems.

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          You're welcome to disagree with my conclusions about the candidates. That's kind of the point of the blog.

          But I don't appreciate the implication that I've done something unethical or immoral - nor that my opinions are founded in the fact that I am employed by campaigns.

          Disagree with me all you want, but if you impugn my ethics, I will push back.

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      If those are observations of Avakian and Witt are "equally valid conclusions", what's stopping you from writing that here yourself? You have contributor privileges. It seems to me rather than griping about Kari, you'd be better served writing your own piece.

      Virtually everyone in Oregon politics knows about Kari's paid gigs and he discloses on every relevant post. People are given the context every time. Kari has no obligation to use "neutral language" any more than I do, as long as he discloses.

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      If those are observations of Avakian and Witt are "equally valid conclusions", what's stopping you from writing that here yourself? You have contributor privileges. It seems to me rather than griping about Kari, you'd be better served writing your own piece.

      Virtually everyone in Oregon politics knows about Kari's paid gigs and he discloses on every relevant post. People are given the context every time. Kari has no obligation to use "neutral language" any more than I do, as long as he discloses.

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        i wasn't at the event & i couldn't watch it: i was attending the Mult Co Board's selection of the new HD46 State Rep. so i'm not going to write about something i have little knowledge of.

        and your assumption about "everyone" is a bit, well, presumptuous. it's amazing how many people do not even known BO exists, much less Mandate or Kari. yet they start to google & find an article - and there's a headline that carries a strong value judgment. do they know that Kari is probably being fair (in terms of what he heard)? no. they think it's dirty pool: he says he writes for himself? sure! ha!

        Kari's not in the same class of contributor as the rest of us. that's a simple fact. last year, when i covered a number of the Dem primaries between Kitz & Bradbury, i was able to be even-handed even though i had made it clear i supported Kitz. i don't believe Kari's work in this piece passes that test.

        which is actually fairly unusual for him. he usually does keep it more even than this time. which is why i felt the need to call him on it.

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          "Kari's not in the same class of contributor as the rest of us. that's a simple fact. "

          What are you talking about?!

          As for the event... Dude, it's on the Internet. Watch the video. Write a column. Get over yourself.

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          Wait...you weren't at the event and not qualified to write it up, but you're qualified to formulate a slam at Kari because a headline? And further, qualified enough to formulate an opinion that Witt and Avakian were pandering to unions?

          Honestly TA...are you deliberately not reading my comment or was the only way you found to make a point to cut out a big chunk of what I said? I said, "virtually everyone in Oregon politics". That's who reads this blog, in general. Further, Kari disclosed his affiliations..so readers who are unaware can choose how many grains of salt to give his opinions. If they think its "dirty pool", they can simply dismiss it.

          I think its quite fair to say that Bonamici is "dithering" on this position, frankly. It's an appropriate verb, from what I've observed.

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    From a national perspective, I do not like the Korea agreement, the Columbia agreement is positive for the U.S. on trade and Panama is irrelevant. (There are union issues with respect to Columbia that are relevant.) Having said that, I do not know how these agreements impact jobs in this district and it is not clear to me that any good analysis has been done. My guess is that most of the positions by the unions are based upon national, not district analysis.

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    Without global human rights standards in and out of the workplace and protections for the environment I'm afraid the private sector is in a global race to to bottom, ever seeking the cheapest wage and loosest protections. Will these trade agreements help us make progress, or make it worse for all of us?

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    Just for the record, the US International Trade Commission (a federal agency tasked with studying trade policies) has projected that the Korea and Colombiapacts would increase the US trade deficit if enacted. Panama's economy is the size of Orlando's and the ITC found it was too small to make any credible predictions. (My own view is that that particular deal is about locking in Panama's status as an offshore tax haven as much as anything else.) Butby the governments own studies Korea and Colombia would be net job killers -- and killers of higher than average paying jobs at that.

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    What a United States International Trade Commission report “U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement: Potential Economy-wide and Selected Sectoral Effects” (2007) report does say in summary (p. xvii, here) is:

    “The Commission estimates that the FTA would result in the following effects:

    • U.S. GDP would likely increase by $10.1–11.9 billion as a result of tariff and tariff-rate quota (TRQ) provisions related to goods market access.

    • Merchandise exports to Korea would likely increase by an estimated $9.7–10.9 billion as a result of tariff and TRQ provisions.

    • Merchandise imports from Korea would likely increase by an estimated $6.4–6.9 billion as a result of tariff and TRQ provisions.

    • U.S. services exports would likely increase as a result of the FTA, given the increase in levels of market access, national treatment, and regulatory transparency that would be afforded by the FTA in excess of the current General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) regime.

    • Aggregate U.S. output and employment changes would likely be negligible, primarily because of the size of the U.S. economy relative to that of the Korean economy.”

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    Given that many people will see this article in an RSS reader, maybe Kari needs to include his disclaimer at the end of the article as well.

    I also wonder if maybe the authors of articles shouldn't include a disclaimer at the end of their articles if they donated money to either the subject of the article or the subjects opponent. I can't see how transparency would hurt.

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      So in order to be a blogger at a progressive I'm blog--I'd then be required to disclose who I give money to? That's ridiculous. It's already disclosed at the FEC and at Orestar.

      Why stop here? Why not be required to disclose your campaign financial support on your Facebook as well?

      Gawd.

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        So in order to be a blogger at a progressive I'm blog--I'd then be required to disclose who I give money to? That's ridiculous. It's already disclosed at the FEC and at Orestar.

        Why stop here? Why not be required to disclose your campaign financial support on your Facebook as well?

        Gawd.

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    Experience suggests:

    1- candidates who are not strong fair-trade supporters will vote for trade agreements.

    2- Governments have consistently misrepresented the effects of trade agreements on jobs and trade balance. The US losses jobs and increases in trade deficit with each agreement. Example: The Korea FTA is Lose-Lose for the U.S. and Korea: The Facts

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    The biggest, fastest growing economic opportunities are now abroad and will be for the foreseeable future. While emerging markets, such as China, Brazil, India and Russia, are growing their GDP at 6-10% annually, the US growth rate is stuck in the 1-3% range, with exports providing some of that growth. Whatever one thinks of individual trade deals, it is folly to think that the most prosperous life for our children will be if they primarily produce for and consume from the US market. Our best economic future is through more trade. We need to get much better at it – we need to open markets, make the competition fairer, and develop a whole new set of international skills in our next generations.

    I do not sense that either Avakian or Witt share this view. Bonamici may.

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      "Our best economic future is through more trade."

      This is what we have been told since NAFTA, GATT, and WTO entered public discussion, but the result has always been loss of jobs and lower wages. What has changed, David, besides the name of the proposed treaty?

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    Tom, I do not share your narrative or perspective on the effects of NAFTA, GATT, and WTO. But, even if I did, I'd be faced with a global economy in which opportunities for business and economic growth are mainly outside the US. I'd need to have some other answer as to how to grow our economy or access those markets. What has changed is the global economy. Other nations now just have larger economies and are growing faster. It is becoming a totally different world. I worry mostly that our next generations are not going to be prepared.

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