By Roger Noonan, president, New England Farmers Union
Promises of expanded trade benefiting U.S. farmers and rural communities have been made during the debates for NAFTA, CAFTA, and the U.S.-Korean Free Trade Agreements and now the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). These benefits have failed to materialize. Instead, rural communities have been roiled by profound economic instability. The trade deficit was $505 billion in 2014, a full 3 percent drag on our nation’s GDP.
Even agriculture, which typically has a surplus in trade, has suffered the consequences of free trade. On the three year anniversary of the U.S.-Korean Free Trade Agreement, agricultural exports to Korea have stagnated, growing an estimated zero percent, yet agricultural imports from Korea have increased 28 percent under the free trade agreement.
Because of the secrecy of the negotiating process, it is impossible to know whether domestic laws such as Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) and other policies to strengthen rural economies, including vital reforms that would reduce our existing trade deficit, are being traded away.
Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), also known as “fast-track,” legislation has moved through both the U.S. Senate Finance Committee and the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee. This bill would remove Congress’ constitutional check on the executive branch when it comes to trade agreements, and it is likely to see the floor of both chambers very soon.
Call your representatives and tell them to reject fast track and ensure all future trade agreements address the substantial trade deficit. The Capitol switchboard is (202) 224-3121.