Minnesota labor leaders said Monday they fear the state's constant drip of jobs lost to cheaper overseas workers will accelerate if a new trade agreement is approved.

Officials of the Minnesota AFL-CIO, the United Steelworkers, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and the Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition said the state lost 2,525 jobs either to offshore workers or to displacement by imports in 2012. Since 1994, nearly 40,000 jobs have been lost, the group said.

The officials are concerned that the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is being negotiated among the United States and Pacific rim nations, will accelerate the loss of jobs in Minnesota. In some of the nations now producing the products, the officials said, unions, workers have few rights and pay is minimal.

"Trade can't be free when human beings aren't free," said Josh Wise, director of the Minnesota Free Trade Coalition, formed in the early 1990s to oppose the North American Free Trade Agreement. He said workers in these nation are "brutally exploited" and constitute a source of "almost free labor" with which U.S. workers cannot compete.

Rather than allow such practices, Wise said, negotiators for the U.S. could demand fair labor standards as part of any agreement.




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