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Public Statements

Opposing the So-Called Central American Free Trade Agreement

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


OPPOSING THE SO-CALLED CENTRAL AMERICAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT -- (House of Representatives - July 20, 2005)

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Lynch) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. LYNCH. Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to the so-called Central American Free Trade Agreement, also called CAFTA.

Mr. Speaker, I address this House from the perspective of the American worker. Prior to my election to Congress, I had a chance to view the effect of U.S. trade policy at its most basic level, that of the American worker.

Prior to coming to this Congress, I worked for about 20 years as an ironworker and a welder. I worked at the General Motors assembly plant in Framingham, Massachusetts, prior to GM's decision to close the Framingham plant and several Michigan plants and instead expand their plants in Mexico.

I also worked as a welder at the General Dynamics shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts, before foreign competition and misguided trade policy moved that work overseas.

I worked at the U.S. steel mill in Gary, Indiana, and at the Inland steel plant in East Chicago, Indiana, as an ironworker prior to the steel industry moving to Third World countries in order to escape responsible labor and environmental standards.

I have seen firsthand the effect of anti-worker trade policies on the American workers and their families. I have seen the devastation that occurs in American cities and towns when we adopt trade policies that encourage U.S. companies to relocate jobs overseas. And I have seen what the impact is on our schools and the fabric of our very communities when large employers shut down the largest plants in town.

I have been impressed since coming to Congress with how people talk about job loss. People in Washington talk about job loss like they are talking about the weather or some natural occurrence, like a giant cold front moved through here and took about 3 million American jobs with it.

Well, American job loss is the result of deliberate policies that have been misguided and have encouraged U.S. employers to locate their jobs overseas. It is time to stop these U.S. policies that simply exploit foreign workers by adopting trade agreements and that have no labor or environmental standards.

Our experience with NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, should inform our decision today. At the time of NAFTA's passage in 1993, the U.S. trade deficit was about $39 billion. Since then, it has soared to about $617 billion in 2004. That is a whopping 1,600 percent increase and more than 5 percent of our national GDP.

It is ironic indeed today when we talk so much about exporting democracy because of our situation in Iraq, that what we are doing here is exporting U.S. jobs, and at the same time endorsing the creation of $2-a-day jobs in Central America.

I think we have a fatal flaw in our foreign policy, in our trade policy. First of all, you do not export democracy through the Defense Department, you do it through the U.S. Trade Representative and through our trade agreements; and you do not export democracy by forcing workers to work for $2 a day. For if you follow the path of exploitation fostered by mercenary and winner-take-all trade agreements that set worker against worker in a race to the bottom, in the end you will in those countries see a retrenchment of hope and a rejection of democracy.

I have seen firsthand the effects of an errant trade policy. It is time today to reject this current CAFTA and to ask our U.S. Trade Representative to go back to the drawing board and come up with a CAFTA that is truly good for the American worker and good for the workers in Central America.

http://thomas.loc.gov

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