Coalition Takes Aim At Ballooning Trade Deficit

By Jill Jusko Wilbur L. Ross, chairman of the International Steel Group Inc., on Sept. 25 officially launched the Free Trade For America Coalition (Freetac), an organization that he said will work to educate Americans and elected officials of the consequences associated with a ballooning trade deficit and unfair trade practices. The trade deficit, he stated during a morning news conference, is $500 billion per year, which is the "loss of $50 million per hour, 24 hours per day, 365 days per year." It is the reason why interest rate cuts by the Federal Reserve and other actions have failed to reduce the U.S. unemployment level, Ross said. The deficit cannot be sustained, he said, without eventual "economic collapse." Joining Ross -- who is Freetac's chairman -- in the coalition are four unions, including UNITE (Union of Needletrades Industrial and Textile Employees), the United Steelworkers of America, and the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International; and numerous manufacturing and agribusiness trade associations, such as the American Cane Sugar Refiners Association, the American Textile Manufacturers Institute and the Florida Citrus Association. Member companies include Cleveland Cliffs Inc. and Burlington Industries. In all, some 42 organizations make up the initial organization. Members of the coalition joined Ross at the news conference. Ross was quick to say that the organization's goal is not to eliminate all free trade. Instead, he says, Freetac wants to dispose of the idea that "all free trade is good" and that all opposition to free-trade efforts are bad. "Either is a wrong characterization," he says. Instead, we "need to get a consensus that it needs fixing." Initially Freetac will engage in fact-finding, making its findings available to the public. It could progress to lobbying efforts or advertising as future situations warrant, Ross said. He said it was too soon to announce policy statements. Noting that the organization was less than an hour old as the time of the news conference, Ross said day-to-day staff contacts had yet to be determined, although "funding mechanisms are in place."

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