Wednesday, June 26, 2013

How the sale of Smithfield offers a view of the future under TPP

An overwhelming majority of voters in the Smithfield Foods district in Virginia are deeply concerned about the sale of the pork producer to Chinese firm Shuanghui International. They take a dismal view of their community's future if a Chinese company buys the major employer.

The potential future of that Virginia district is a microcosm of what life would be like for U.S. workers if the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is ultimately approved.

A poll conducted last week on the website of Rep. Randy Forbes, who represents the Smithfield district, asked constituents what they thought of the deal. More than 90 percent said a CFIUS (Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S.) review of the acquisition should examine its impact on food safety, the environment and U.S. economic interests.

Food Safety News reported that 15 senators have asked the CFIUS committee to include U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration representatives to review the deal's effect on food safety.

We reported last year on mercury in Chinese baby food and kebabs made out of cat meat. Here's more from USA Today:
Food-safety worries are rife across China after multiple scandals in recent years. Shuanghui apologized to consumers and withdrew products after a 2011 television exposé revealed use of an illegal additive to produce leaner pork. Like all pork producers in China, Shuanghui does not breed most of its own pigs. Thousands of dead pigs floating in a river near Shanghai this March offered a stark reminder of widespread lax practices.
Voters are also concerned about jobs that continue to support middle-class families. A USA Today report says the average Shuanghui worker only makes $500 a month, while the 1,600 workers at Smithfield's Denison, Iowa, pork-processing plant typically make about $700 a week.

American workers are worried about workplace safety as well. The Food and Commercial Workers Union points out that Chinese processing plants have been plagued by accidents.

Concerns like these will only grow if Congress approves the TPP corporate-empowerment deal. Why?  Because U.S. companies will engage in a race to the bottom with those in many developing nations. American workers will be undercut as jobs will either be shifted overseas or wages will be cut. The quality of life for working Americans will continue to fall. Communities will be hollowed out by shuttered factories. The government will be forced to accept food from other countries that doesn't meet our standards.

No one is against trade, just unfair trade. When the U.S. negotiates a trade agreement, every provision should benefit working families, not big corporations. It is time to rebuild the middle class, not tear it down, and that means trade deals that benefit working Americans.

Stay tuned...