Congress is expected to take up consideration of trade deals with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea as early as this month. Ahead of that debate, top executives of 32 major corporations ranging from General Electric to Dow Chemical signed an open letter calling on Congress to immediately pass the deals, warning that “U.S. goods, services, and farm exports are losing ground every day” without them.
Using a database of workers who benefited from Trade Adjustment Assistance — a program that aids workers who lose their jobs due to foreign trade — the public interest group Public Citizen analyzed the jobs records of these corporations and found that 18 of the 32 outsourced at least 18,600 American jobs to other countries since 2001 thanks to prior free trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA):
We have a searchable form of the TAA database on our website. There you can see that some of these 32 corporations have shipped a combined 18,600 American jobs overseas since 2001. Consider that an example rather than a full accounting of the damage, as TAA is a narrow program that excludes many workers who may well have lost their jobs to trade pacts and imports but who do not meet the program’s criteria. […] Just to pick out a few examples, Whirlpool took advantage of NAFTA and shipped over 1,000 jobs at their Fort Smith, Arkansas facility to Mexico in 2008. Caterpillar, a major backer of the proposed trade pact with Colombia, laid off 338 workers at its Mapleton, Illinois facility when it shifted their work to Mexico.
Advocates of the new trade agreements have long maintained that these deals will lead to American job growth. But the evidence from previous agreements and estimates of the job losses from the deals Congress will be deciding on does not bear this out.