Miami for sale

Florida has been seduced with a report that states 89,000 jobs will materialize if Miami lands the Free Trade Area of the Americas’ permanent Secretariat once the new FTAA pact is in place. This creates a pretty picture, but upon further inspection, most of these projected job claims are not what they seem.

Enterprise Florida, a business organization with vested interests, did a study that issued the projection claims with little grounding in truth. The study is nothing more than self-serving propaganda.

First, many of the potential jobs are based on the assumption that Florida’s exports to Latin America and the Caribbean will at least triple during the first 10 years. Astonishingly, the study doesn’t take into account the flip side of the very same coin, the impact on Florida’s jobs from new markets of imports or the shift of investment and business ventures from Florida to more appealing locations. This outsourcing of jobs by corporations to countries with weaker labor and environmental standards is one factor that workers can count on as a result of free trade deals.

Investors free to search out cheaper markets can’t be counted on to keep Florida’s many jobs in state after the FTAA. History talks. Just look at North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, which the FTAA is a more intensified model of. The Labor Department has certified that over half a million American workers have lost their jobs due to NAFTA. Of this, almost 12,000 jobs were lost in Florida due to imports from Mexico and Canada, a direct result of the shifts in production through NAFTA.

The Economic Policy Institute, a non-partisan think-tank, reports that job losses were much higher: 766,000 nationally, 27,631 in Florida. The Miami area has seen eight large local factories shut down operations and move to Mexico since NAFTA. The FTAA will add 31 more countries to the mix. Do the math.

One of Enterprise Florida’s most unscientific claims in the study is the assumption that 28,073 jobs will come from the abstract concept of locating the FTAA Secretariat in Miami, thus creating a “Gateway to the Americas” and the “Business Capital of Latin America.” This approach is trying to appeal to Florida’s own sense of self-importance, and an economy full of frustrated displaced workers all eager to believe the myths of this latest business study. There are also the little-mentioned factors, (cough) corporate perks, such as the expectation of a free facility in Miami that will cost the host city’s private and public sector upwards of $25 million.

Almost 10 years of facts and statistics about NAFTA, the father of FTAA, provides abundant evidence that there are negative impacts on the societies, economies and environments of all three countries involved in that agreement. The United States’ combined trade deficit with Mexico and Canada went from $9 billion in 1993 to $87 billion in 2002, almost a tenfold increase.

Such an experience shows that the highest rates of growth are in the multinational corporation’s profits and pockets, not in sustainable growth for countries and lucrative job markets for the citizens.

Furthermore, of the new jobs that appeared in Mexico due to NAFTA, 48 percent do not have the worker benefits mandated by law. Advocates of free trade will say that having any job is better than no job.

And that’s what the blessing of the FTAA boils down to in the end: What kind of jobs are these projected 89,000 positions? Minimum wage? Temporary or part-time, with no benefits? Non-union?

Gov. Jeb Bush stated when speaking about the FTAA that there will be “temporary winners and losers” due to the changes. Our Labor Department has recently proposed combining forces of the two “growing” programs (NAFTA Transitional Adjustment Assistance and Trade Adjustment Assistance) created to assist workers displaced by international trade.

This clearly shows that even our own government is anticipating a negative impact from the proposed FTAA pact.

DeAnna Forrest Zitis is a junior majoring in political science.