Trans-Pacific Partnership could hurt jobs in U.S.

04/28/2014 5:40 PM

04/28/2014 5:40 PM

In the Missouri and Kansas area, we have lived through the many ups and downs of the American auto industry. When the auto industry is strong, our economy is strong.

The good news is that the American auto industry is roaring back, creating tens of thousands of new jobs a year. In Missouri and Kansas, thousands of auto related jobs have been saved and/or created in the last four years.

Our renewed industry is now America’s No. 1 exporting sector. Every day we are making more cars, creating more jobs and selling more cars here and abroad.

Between the GM Wentzville, Mo., Plant, Ford Assembly, and Fairfax Assembly, we have more than 11,000 UAW members in Missouri and Kansas whose jobs could be affected by a bad trade deal with Japan. During the darkest hours, President Barack Obama rightly stepped in to ensure that our auto industry would survive.

And it didn’t just survive, it thrived and is helping us reach the president’s ambitious goal of doubling our nation’s exports. Later this month President Obama recently met with Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

As a regional director for the UAW, I am especially concerned about the trade deal we are negotiating with Japan — the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This trade

agreement could undermine the growth of the auto industry and kill American jobs.

I urge President Obama to impress upon Prime Minister Abe the importance of a fair and balanced trade agreement, especially as it relates to the auto industry. While the United States has a free and open market, Japan refuses to open its market or play by the rules.

We have a competitive industry with more than half of the cars sold in the U.S. made by foreign automakers. Japan does not have an open system, intentionally keeping its huge auto market closed to American cars in favor of its own auto companies.

Japan exports 130 vehicles to the U.S. for every one American vehicle exported to Japan. These kinds of trade practices have been business as usual for Japan for more than 30 years.

Despite countless effort by both Democratic and Republican administrations, Japan has never opened up its market to foreign car companies. These unfair trade practices include currency manipulation, regulatory schemes, and anti-consumer national policies to guarantee that Japan’s auto companies have total control over local consumers.

Hyundai-Kia, gaining market share all around the world in the small vehicle market, spent nearly a decade trying to sell cars in Japan, but gave up in 2009 in frustration with insurmountable barriers to market access. The cost of trade imbalance is lost jobs.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership currently proposes that the U.S. phase out tariffs on Japanese automobiles, auto parts and light trucks — equivalent to a $1 billion tax break for Japanese auto companies, with nothing in return except the loss of at least 100,000 jobs.

Japan’s inclusion in the Trans-Pacific Partnership would tilt the already unleveled playing field even further in Japan’s favor. Most Japanese auto companies operating in the U.S. routinely deny their American workers democratic elections to decide on union representation.

Threats of job loss, plant closure and loss of work start at the time of hire, making it nearly impossible for workers to organize at Japanese auto manufacturers in the U.S. Despite the fact that Japan has agreed to international treaties that guarantee freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, Japan does not respect that right at its U.S. plants.

President Obama stood by the auto industry four years ago, and we need the president and his administration to do the right thing again by putting American companies and workers first. President Obama should say no to Japan in the Trans-Pacific Partnership until Japan plays fair.

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