January 31, 2011


To:                   SPEEA Council


From:              SPEEA Legislative and Public Affairs Committee


Subject:           Pre-Submitted New Business:  Oppose Four Pending Trade Agreements





Trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama were finalized near the end of the Bush administration. The Korea-US agreement was modified in December 2010. All three may come to a vote in Congress early in 2011. The Obama administration is drafting a new agreement with 7 countries, under the name Trans-Pacific Partnership.


These four agreements all conform to the NAFTA model by


Fundamentally, NAFTA-style trade agreements shift power in favor of multinational companies. Corporate rights are placed above all non-economic interests. This would be comparable to letting businesses in any of the 50 states in America sue another state to be exempt from pollution requirements, workplace safety or meat inspection rules. The result would be to that each state's protections would drift down to the lowest common denominator. This would be great for the businesses but would be bad for people.


Congress is likely to consider the Korea-US agreement first. The US International Trade Commission predicts the agreement would increase exports to Korea. Unfortunately, imports into the US would increase even more, with a net worsening of our trade balance.


The US ITC report predicts job losses in transportation equipment (mostly automobiles), electronics, metal products, industrial textiles such as Kevlar, and other high-tech industries with relatively high wages. (The US ITC methodology assumes no jobs will be lost.) Other sectors of the US domestic economy will do better - particularly agriculture, beef, pork, wheat and soybeans.


The four trade agreements would allow foreign companies to overturn local laws to protect the environment, human rights and public health, by arguing that those laws reduce the future profits of a foreign company. On the other hand, the agreements provides very weak enforcement of labor rights.


The Korea-US agreement forbids mention of the Core Labor Standards approved by the International Labor Organization. It also overturns financial deregulation enacted in Korea. Korean products can have up to two-thirds foreign content from China, or other low wage countries and be sold in America duty-free. Korea could also include content from the Kaesong Industrial Complex, where North Koreans work under the management of South Korean companies. 


Specific objections to the agreement with Colombia call out oppression of labor leaders. Panama has a particular problem with laundering drug money and irregularities in financial reporting. 


Opposition also comes from American unions (except the UAW), the AFL-CIO, State Labor Council's including Washington, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, family farm organizations, local Korean community organizations, and hundreds of faith-based and social justice groups.  



It is moved that: THE SPEEA Council opposes ratification of the three trade agreements negotiated between the US and Korea, Colombia and Panama. The SPEEA Council opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership as long as it conforms to the NAFTA model. The Council authorizes SPEEA staff and delegates to lobby in Congress to reject the agreements.



1. Free trade agreements have a consistent track record of failure

2. Free trade agreements increase offshore outsourcing, which will indirectly worsen our job security.

3. Stopping these agreements would encourage consideration of the model taken in the TRADE Act.



1. Washington State's economy depends on exports such as aerospace, software and agriculture. Free trade agreements prevent other countries from raising tariffs that block our exports. 

2. Rejecting trade agreements might encourage protectionism in the US, leading to tariffs and higher prices at home.

3. Many economists and policy-makers believe that free trade agreements are the best way to promote growth.