Vermont export industry jobs down

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(Host) According to a new report, there’s been a significant loss of jobs in Vermont’s export industries over the last 5 years.

Members of the Vermont Commission on International Trade expressed surprise and dismay at the details of the report.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The Commission asked the Vermont Department of Labor to compile a report that evaluates the general condition of Vermont’s export industry. The panel also wanted to study the impact that free trade agreements have had on businesses in the state.

The news is not good. Between 2000 and 2005, companies that make up the state’s exporting market lost 20% of their jobs. This amounts to roughly 9,000 positions.

Initially during this time period, the value of products exported from Vermont fell sharply and then eventually rebounded to previous levels.

In addition, nearly 1,700 workers lost their jobs specifically because their companies shifted the positions overseas under one of the country’s free trade agreements.

Chittenden senator Ginny Lyons is a co-chair of the Commission. She’s surprised by the loss of jobs in the electronics, manufacturing, paper products and transportation equipment fields. Vermont’s food products industry also lost 6% of its jobs during this time period.

(Lyons) “What’s surprising to me is that the very areas that we thought we were leading and gaining in are the areas we’re losing. And many of these are related to free trade agreements. What the commission would like to do would be to understand what’s happening and perhaps turn this around so that we can actually see an increase in jobs in the state of Vermont rather than shipping them off to other parts of the world.”

(Kinzel) Chris Barbieri is an international trade specialist at the Vermont Chamber of Commerce.

He says he still believes that free trade will benefit the state economy in the long term.

(Barbieri) “To see some decline in jobs – I think that’s not necessarily an unusual thing. But I think over the long run we’re going to see a positive result for Vermont in terms of the exports and the markets that are going to become open to us.”

(Kinzel) Next month, Governor Jim Douglas will lead a trade mission to China to promote Vermont’s environmental technologies. Barbieri has high hopes for this effort:

(Barbieri) “China has a huge environmental disaster as most folks know. It doesn’t matter whether it’s water, whether it’s air or whether it’s solid waste. They’ve got a lot of environmental problems and Vermont has an opportunity to be part of that solution. The central government and provincial governments are spending enormous amounts of money on clean up and this clean up is going to take decades before it’s completed.”

(Kinzel) The Commission on International Trade also plans to review a variety of federal and state programs that are available to displaced workers. The panel wants to be certain that these programs are meeting the needs of Vermonters who have lost their jobs in the export sector.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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