Manufacturer group seeks trade pacts moratorium

An expanded coalition of manufacturing associations is calling for a moratorium on any new trade agreements, including the recently concluded Central American Free Trade Agreement.

The group of 23 American manufacturing organizations is asking the Bush administration to conduct a thorough review of the impact of such agreements on American workers and manufacturers. It said it represents more than 18,000 companies with more than 1.1 million employees.

The call came amid reports that more than 100,000 American workers became unemployed in January as their jobs moved to countries like India, China and the Philippines. It was the first time the number had exceeded 100,000 since October.

The coalition also called for a moratorium on trade agreements and legislation to further liberalize preferential trade arrangements with other countries and regions such as the Africa and Middle East trade liberalization initiatives now being pushed anew within the executive and legislative branches of the federal government.

“We are extremely alarmed at the rapid disintegration of our manufacturing base resulting in part from past trade liberalization agreements and legislation,” said a spokesman for the coalition.

“The United States has lost a net total of 2.7 million well-paying manufacturing jobs since Jan. 1, 2001, and it is fast losing vital basic manufacturing capabilities that have alarming national economic welfare and national security ramifications.”

Moratorium timeline

The spokesman said the moratorium should extend “until our trade policy and past trade liberalization legislation are fully comprehended and amended to result in balanced trade that benefits our national welfare in a manner that is clearly visible to the American worker and American manufacturers.”

The new group includes: American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition; American Mold Builders Association; MADE in USA; Manufacture Alabama; Manufacturing Alliance of Connecticut, Inc.; Manufacturers' Association of Central New York; Manufacturers for Fair Trade; National Tooling & Machining Association;

Save American Manufacturing Now; and the United States Business & Industry Council.

Earlier, the National Cotton Council passed a resolution urging Congress to delay ratifying the new Central American Free Trade Agreement until its textile provisions can be thoroughly reviewed and significantly improved.

The council said it continuing discussions with the U.S. Trade Representative's office to ensure that “World Trade Organization negotiations on the U.S. cotton program will be conducted in the context of the overall agricultural negotiations, while reiterating concerns about the elimination of U.S. textile tariffs.

Post-holiday job cuts

The January job loss estimate came from Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., an outplacement firm, which said post-holiday job cuts reached 117,556 in January, surpassing the 100,000 threshold for the first time since last October.

According to Challenger, consumer product companies led the January cutbacks with 22,775 job cuts, the largest number of reported job cuts in that sector in a single month since 1993, according to Challenger.

Challenger said one of the main factors for the job cuts in January was an increase of employers eliminating jobs in the United States and shifting to service providers in India, China and the Philippines among other countries.

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