Head-to-head: Free Trade Agreements cause loss of U.S. jobs, enable inhumane labor
3 mins read

Head-to-head: Free Trade Agreements cause loss of U.S. jobs, enable inhumane labor

The United States has 14 Free Trade Agreements in effect with 20 countries. The goal behind Trade Agreements is to reduce import quotas and tariffs in order to increase trade between the countries named in the Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

On paper, FTAs sound appealing. Tariffs are reduced, meaning that trade with other countries is cheaper, ensuring economic benefits for all countries involved.

According to the U.S. Government, the process works something like this:

“The reduction of trade barriers and the creation of a more stable and transparent trading and investment environment make it easier and cheaper for U.S. companies to export their products and services to trading partner markets.”

However, Trade Agreements don’t increase exports of U.S. products, they increase the export of U.S. jobs. FTAs make it infinitely easier for companies based in the U.S. to ship their factories overseas to places like China and Vietnam, leaving thousands, even millions, of U.S. workers out to dry.

Trade Agreements like NAFTA and Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) to China have led to a total loss of almost 3.5 million U.S. jobs.

Not only do FTAs cause the U.S. to hemorrhage jobs, they initiate an international phenomena known as the “race to the bottom.”

The race to the bottom is what happens when FTAs cause large corporations to pack up, leave the United States and head to countries with lax labor and environmental standards.

South Eastern countries (like the aforementioned China and Vietnam, in addition to Malaysia) compete to hold large Multinational Corporations who’re looking to minimize costs in any way possible. Competing countries race to lower their environmental and labor standards, lowering employee wages, slashing safety standards and allowing for dangerous levels of emissions.

For example, in iPhone-making factories in China, employees earn $1.85 an hour before overtime (which is required by the factory of all workers). Young workers work in 12 hour shifts, six days a week. Workers are paid for 10 and a half hours of work each day.

In Vietnam, the minimum wage is $0.56. Independent labor unions are banned and anyone caught trying to improve working conditions is jailed immediately,

In Malaysia, migrant factory workers have their passports and wages confiscated, making them equivalent to modern-day slaves, unable to return to their own countries.

FTAs are not about increasing trade. FTAs are about decreasing international environmental and labor standards to increase profits of large corporations. If you encounter problems such as unfair labor practices or contesting an unlawful job in the workplace, consulting with an employment lawyer can offer essential guidance and assistance in handling legal aspects of workplace issues.

When presented with the choice of costly U.S. labor and inhumane, cheap slave labor, FTAs enable corporations to take advantage of the latter.