WASHINGTON, April 12, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Leo W. Gerard, International President for the United Steelworkers (USW), released this statement on today's announcement by the Obama Administration that consultations with Japan have been completed, paving the way for Japan to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations:
"President Obama's focus on the manufacturing sector and jobs signals the importance of the sector and its role in leading America through the recovery and providing a foundation for sustained economic growth. We appreciate what he has done and his outline for future policies.
"Growing trade deficits brought about by unfair trade and broad and targeted attacks on the U.S. economy by our trading partners have resulted in millions of jobs lost and the forced closure of tens of thousands of plants. Still, the USW has worked closely with the Obama Administration to try to forge a way forward that will address these problems, reigniting economic growth and job creation. We have partnered on a number of important enforcement actions that have yielded real results. But, it's abundantly clear that today's trade policies must be reformed and updated.
"As a result, we have engaged in countless hours of substantive analysis and debate about these issues. We cannot afford to continue the status quo, as the record of accumulated trade deficits has left workers in the dust. We also cannot afford more so-called "new approaches" that masquerade as change but only contribute to more outsourcing and offshoring of production, jobs and dreams.
"Today's announcement is deeply troubling. First, it continues the lopsided approach to the trade debate that undermines the ability to honestly discuss the issues. The fact sheet released by the U.S. Trade Representative highlights the $70 billion in exports that the United States sent to Japan last year. Those exports are important. But, what it fails to say is that Japan enjoyed virtually unfettered access to the United States and has flooded our market with $146 billion in exports. If this negotiation is starting with a glossing over of the facts, we must be especially vigilant as the process continues.
"Second, the problems the United States faces in terms of access to the Japanese market have plagued us for thirty years. The resulting U.S.-Japan trade deficit has also fueled a trust deficit. Despite numerous trade agreements, including promises under the World Trade Organization, Japan has basically shut its door to foreign products. After a short period of activism under the Reagan Administration, Japan's protectionist policies have been essentially ignored by Democratic and Republican Administrations. Why will this trade agreement achieve the results that we've failed to achieve in past decades? The Administration's agreement identifies many of the most vexing issues we face with Japan, including the tariff issue, but more needs to be done and we are deeply skeptical of its success.
"Third, the agreement fails to make any specific mention of currency manipulation and the need to address this important issue in the context of Japan's potential entry into the TPP. Currency manipulation robs U.S. workers of their jobs.
"But, as with any issue, the devil is in the details. From early on we have said that we do not think that Japan is ready to join the TPP nor do we think the United States is ready to accept even more Japanese imports without true, lasting and fundamental access to their market for our exports. The Administration appears to have made its decision so as the review of this agreement takes place, we will work with them, along with our friends in Congress, our colleagues in labor and employers who will be most affected by this decision, to assess the commitments Japan has made and the enforcement regime that will be created to ensure their implementation. Our members' livelihood depends upon it."
The USW represents 850,000 workers in North America employed in many industries that include metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil refining and the service and public sectors. For more information: http://www.usw.org/.