Page 13 - NovemberDecember Issue 2012

Basic HTML Version

November/December 2012
Public Citizen News
By Angela Bradbery
In the first presidential de-
bate, President Barack Obama
claimed that passage last year of
free trade deals with Korea, Pan-
ama and Colombia has expanded
U.S. exports. The three deals,
which Obama supported despite
overwhelming opposition from
congressional Democrats, “are
helping us to double our exports
and sell more American products
around the world,” he said.
But the data are in, and they
show that the president’s asser-
tion — made a year after Congress
approved the deals — is wrong. In
fact, U.S. exports to Korea have
declined, imports from Korea
and Colombia have surged, and
the Panama deal went into effect
only days before the election.
U.S. Department of Commerce
trade data support the views of
a majority of Americans who see
these deals as destroying — rather
than creating — U.S. jobs.
“Corporate donors to both po-
litical parties love these deals be-
cause they provide new investor
protections to offshore jobs and
rights to import products that do
not meet our safety standards,”
said Lori Wallach, director of
Public Citizen’s Global Trade
Watch. “But, as the government
trade data again show, the actu-
al outcomes of these deals hurt
most of us.”
In 2011, two-thirds of Demo-
crats in the U.S. House of Rep-
resentatives opposed the Korea
Free Trade Agreement (FTA), and
82 percent opposed the Colom-
2011 ‘Free Trade’ Deals Haven’t Lived Up to Obama’s Promises
bia FTA — the largest percentages
ever to vote against a Democratic
president on trade pacts. The
Obama administration promised
a concrete benefit for each of the
pacts on the date of their pas-
sage: “greater U.S. access to the
Korean auto market, significantly
increased labor rights and worker
protections in Colombia, and en-
hanced tax transparency and la-
bor rights in Panama.”
But since implementation of
the Korea FTA, exports of U.S.
goods to Korea have declined by 9
percent (a decrease of more than
$1.2 billion) in comparison to 2011
levels for the same months, while
U.S. exports to Colombia since
implementation of the Colombia
FTA have barely increased. Un-
der the FTAs, the United States
has suffered a 6 percent fall in
combined exports to the two new
U.S. FTA partners.
both Korea and Colombia have
risen substantially. As a result,
the combined U.S. trade deficit
with Korea and Colombia under
the deals has jumped 29 percent
above the 2011 levels for the same
months. Using the same ratio em-
ployed by the Obama administra-
tion, this trade deficit expansion
implies the net loss of more than
15,000 U.S. jobs in just the first
few months of the new trade
In addition, U.S. automotive
exports to Korea have dropped by
$26 million, a 7 percent decline,
since implementation of the pact,
as compared to 2011 levels for the
same months. Meanwhile, in the
five months that the Korea FTA
has been in effect, imports of
cars and auto parts from Korea
have soared $1.8 billion above
2011 levels for the same time pe-
riod — a 25 percent increase. The
U.S. trade deficit with Korea in
autos and auto parts has already
climbed to $7.9 billion — a 28 per-
cent increase over 2011 levels for
the same period.
And in Colombia, union assas-
sinations are up. Despite a La-
bor Action Plan with Colombia
announced in 2011 to improve
Colombia’s labor protections,
Colombia remains the world’s
deadliest place to be a union
member. In 2011, 4 of every 10
unionist murders in the world oc-
curred in Colombia, with 29 slain.
This year, a reported 35 Colom-
bian unionists already have been
The record in Panama isn’t any
better. To counter criticism that
the Panama FTAwould assist cor-
porations seeking to dodge U.S.
taxes via secretive Panama-based
subsidiaries and bank accounts,
the Obama administration an-
nounced a Tax Information Ex-
change Agreement with Panama.
However, a large loophole in that
agreement allows Panama to
sidestep new tax transparency
provisions if they are “contrary
to the public policy” of Panama.
In June 2012, the Organiza-
tion for Economic Cooperation
and Development, which tracks
countries’ tax haven statuses,
reported that Panama remains
one of a handful of countries in
the world that has not passed a
first-stage review of its tax trans-
parency measures, due to nearly
unparalleled nonconformity on
6 of 9 regulatory checks against
tax evasion. Even the Cayman
Islands did not earn that dubious
Public Citizen will continue to
track the damage of these pacts
as we push for a new trade agree-
ment model that actually cre-
ates American jobs and does not
threaten our environmental,
health and safety policies.
Public Citizen will continue to track
the damage of these pacts as we push
for a new trade agreement model that
actually creates American jobs and
does not threaten our environmental,
health and safety policies.
By Jake Parent
Occupational injuries and fatal-
ities in the construction industry
cost Washington state residents
$762 million between 2008 and
2010, a new Public Citizen report
From 2008 to 2010, Washing-
ton recorded 34,700 construction
industry injuries and illnesses, of
which 16,600 required days away
from work or job transfer. Addi-
tionally, 39 construction-related
fatalities were reported in these
Drawing on a 2004 analysis on
the cost of occupational injuries
Construction Injuries, Fatalities Cost Washington $762 Million From 2008-2010
in combination with newer data,
Public Citizen, in its report titled
“The Price of Inaction: A Com-
prehensive Look at the Costs of
Injuries and Fatalities in Wash-
ington’s Construction Industry,”
determined that such incidents
cost the state’s economy $762
million during the three-year
“The economic picture we
came up with is quite stagger-
ing,” said Keith Wrightson, work-
er safety and health advocate for
Public Citizen’s Congress Watch
division. “We now know that
construction accidents impose
huge economic costs in addition
to tremendous pain for individu-
al victims.”
A solution proposed in the re-
port is to award public construc-
tion contracts only to companies
that have strong safety records,
Public Citizen says.
The report notes that Wash-
ington already screens construc-
tion companies to ensure that
they meet standards on past
performance, apprenticeship uti-
lization and legal proceedings.
But safety is excluded from the
state’s prequalification system.
The system should be expanded
to require construction firms to
demonstrate that they provide
safety training to workers and
site supervisors, and that they
do not have serious safety viola-
“Implementing a prequalifica-
tion process for public construc-
tion projects would not address
all of the industry’s safety prob-
lems,” Wrightson said. “How-
ever, such a positive step could
yield significant gains to the
economy for minimal costs.”
The report can be viewed at