Legislature to weigh in on fair trade

Chip Shields

Tomorrow Monday, March 7, the Oregon Senate's General Government, Consumer and Small Business Protection that I chair will consider SM 1. The memorial (another name for resolution) urges Congress to pass the TRADE Act, a fair trade bill that will require that trade agreements protect states rights, and ensure reasonable labor and environmental standards.

For the last 10+ years, we've been living on a construction, real estate and finance bubble, and when it burst in 2008, we woke up to the fact that we've shipped most of our manufacturing jobs overseas. That's why we're having such a hard time recovering from this great recession.

Come down to Salem at 1:00 Monday in hearing room B if you'd like to weigh in. The AFL-CIO is having a rally at noon on the Capitol steps.

Watch the video for some stories from Oregonians who've lost their jobs due largely to the imbalance in our existing trade agreements.

How to put Oregon back to work is the most important debate we can have in this legislative session. Since state legislatures, in my opinion, are closest to constituents, it is proper for us to reflect the will of the people and send a message to Congress on trade policy. Let's put Oregon back to work with a more balanced approach to trade.

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    I feel sorry for any worker who loses his or her job, but.....

    The USA is still the number one global manufacturer. (For example, see here).

    Technology and increased efficiency (productivity) have eliminated more manufacturing jobs than increased imports (here, for example).

    With 95% of the world’s consumers living outside the US, and with economic growth rates of 7-10% in many emerging market countries compared to 2-3% in the US, there are far more opportunities for Oregon to sell its goods and services globally than in the US. (consider the BRIC here)

    To create more jobs in Oregon we need access to those foreign markets and an Oregon education system that produces graduates with the language and cross-cultural skills to sell our stuff abroad.

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    Today's "trade" agreements can be literally thousands of pages long, and impact far, far more than just tariffs and quotas. The TRADE Act allows us to continue expanding our access to foreign markets, while fixing a lot of the "non-trade" bologna found in today's trade and investment pacts. Sen. Shields should be commended for recognizing the relevance of this issue to the state legislature.

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    The Blue Hearing Paper Mill closure in Oregon City is a stark reminder of the consequences that current trade policies, that fail to enforce basic labor, environmental and human rights standards, have on jobs in Oregon. The TRADE Act will protect OR jobs by enforcing internationally-agreed standards and addressing unfair trade practices like subsidies, which in the case of Blue Herring made it impossible to compete with China's government subsidized paper industry. Senate Memoral 1, in support of the TRADE Act, just makes sense for Oregon.

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    Trade is one thing, and exploitation is another. In the United States we have gradually developed standards of consumer safety, labor rights, and environmental protection that make our society better, at a cost. Using free trade agreements to circumvent these standards for private gain - at a social cost - is exploitation of the sort the TRADE act seeks to prevent, while continuing to pursue legitimate trade. In the scheme prevailing now, one of the measures of the cost of trade to the U.S.A. is livelihoods lost. One of the measures of the cost of trade in other countries is lives lost.


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