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Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


DOMINICAN REPUBLIC-CENTRAL AMERICA-UNITED STATES FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT -- (Senate - June 30, 2005)

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Mr. KENNEDY. Madam President, I wish my friend from Colorado were on the floor. I listened very carefully to his description of the state of our economy from 1993 on. As we remember, President Clinton was elected in 1992. I think modern economists would say we had the longest period of economic growth and price stability in this century--certainly in this century, and for at least 100 years during that period of time. That is what is reflected in these numbers.

To tie those into questions about lost manufacturing jobs in terms of NAFTA, it is better to look at the various analyses, the business analyses that have been done. The EPI studies show that more than 900,000 manufacturing jobs have actually been lost due to NAFTA.

I am proud of the record of President Clinton. I was proud to vote in support of his economic policies, to put that into play. As a matter of fact, it did not have a single vote here by a Republican in the Senate. It does reflect in the strong economic indicators that the Senator from Colorado showed, but relating that to what were the manufacturing jobs that were lost, in terms of NAFTA, I did not hear explained very closely.

I support free trade. I have long voted for trade agreements that truly leveled the playing field for our country and for our workers.

Will the Chair let me know when I have 3 minutes left?

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Chair will do so.

Mr. KENNEDY. Free trade removes unfair barriers to American goods and world markets and creates a fair playing field for competition between American workers and workers abroad. Free and fair trade creates jobs and strengthens our economy. But this Central American agreement is not free trade. I urge the Senate to reject this unfair agreement.

Especially at this time when American workers are deeply concerned about their jobs being outsourced overseas, the Bush administration is wrong to negotiate an agreement that refuses to protect them. I am coming back to that in a moment. It allows participating countries to use labor practices that fail to meet international standards. It means that American workers, the best in the world, will be forced to compete with countries whose workers are abused and exploited. That is not fair trade.

I am for progress and economic development in Central America, dating back to President Kennedy's Alliance for Progress. But this agreement does nothing to improve labor rights for the workers in the CAFTA nations. All it asks is that they enforce their existing laws. It does nothing to create a community of nations that respects the basic rights and dignity of workers.

Most CAFTA nations give their workers no real rights such as an 8-hour day, overtime pay, or protection against discrimination. Laws in some CAFTA nations are even hostile to organized labor. Workers in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras can be fired for joining a union or even intending to organize a union. In Nicaragua, strikes are prohibited without government permission. Even where laws do exist, violations often cannot lead to fines or sanctions.

Those working conditions are not just what I have to say. There is an excellent study that was commissioned by the Department of Labor to review the working conditions among these countries that would be affected by this agreement. When the results came in, what did the administration do? They tried to hide the report. They went out and pulled all the paper that the study had been written on. What the study showed very clearly--and I will read the excerpts. The Government-paid study concludes:

Countries proposed for free trade status have poor working environments and fail to protect workers' rights. The department instructed its contractors to remove the reports from its web, ordered it to retrieve paper copies before they could be made public, banned the release of the new information from the reports, and even told the contractor it could not discuss the studies with outsiders. The working countries are so bad in those countries that the administration's own independent report stated so. Do we have anything in this particular agreement that will do anything about it? Absolutely not.

Have we at other times tried to do something about the conditions in these other countries? We certainly have. The agreement which stands out is the Jordanian agreement. In the Jordanian agreement they have very clear understanding about what the Jordanians were going to do to try to realize the international labor standards. No. 1, they were going to eliminate slave trade; No. 2, they were going to make advances moving ahead on child labor; No. 3, they were going to permit the organizing of various labor organizations with real enforcement going in there, and penalties and sanctions if there were a violation. In other words, under the labor provisions in the Jordanian agreement that was passed by this body, we were moving forward, upward, to meet the international labor conditions. That is what ought to be in this agreement.

But is it in this agreement? Absolutely not. Were there any provisions in this agreement that, as a result of this agreement, American workers would get some kind of compensation for loss of their jobs as we have done at other times? Absolutely not. That proposal was defeated in the Finance Committee.

In other words, we are leaving American workers out there, high and dry, and are asked to go ahead and pass this without any serious effort to provide at least some protection for workers in those countries where there are going to be profits that will certainly not trickle down to the workers in that country and where real American workers will pay with the loss of their jobs because of this agreement.

CAFTA does not just ignore international standards for Central American workers; it also fails to include the aid for American workers likely to be displaced. When the Senate Finance Committee debated this agreement, it recommended that CAFTA include aid for displaced American workers, but the White House ignored the bipartisan recommendation. The President effectively abused his power and presented Congress and the American people with a take-it-or-leave-it plan. We know it can be better and we should reject this defective agreement, send it to the White House and go back to the drawing board.

Although CAFTA is the administration's top trade priority, it actually does very little to reduce the Nation's growing overall trade deficit. Trade in the region accounts for less than 1.5 percent of total U.S. trade. It will barely lead to any improvement in GDP, an increase of only one-tenth of 1 percent. Instead of a policy to reduce our trade imbalance with China and deal with its currency manipulations and WTO violations, the administration has spent more than a year on this trade agreement that will do embarrassingly little to improve jobs and the economy. It is out of touch with sensible trade priorities for this country and ignores the needs of American families.

I want to take a few moments to show the pressure American families are under and why they are wondering why we are considering this legislation that provides no protection even for the workers in those countries and why it will accelerate additional pressures on American workers. Look what is happening in this country. More than 37 million Americans, 28 percent of the workforce, work more than 40 hours a week. Nearly 1 in 5 workers work more than 50 hours a week. More than 7.4 million Americans are working at 2 or more jobs, and 300,000 have 2 full-time jobs. Americans' work hours have increased more than in any other industrialized nation. American workers are working longer, are doing better, are increasing their productivity. Is there any recognition and respect for this extraordinary achievement? I certainly do not see it.

What do we have here? Workers are not benefiting from their work. This chart shows there is an increase in productivity from 2001 to 2004. Productivity is growing 43 times faster than wages.

Generally, in our country, when we have seen the expansion in productivity, we have also seen a growth in American workers' wages. That is the way it has been since we have been an industrial nation, with the exception of the present, current time. Currently, workers have been increasing their productivity--they are working longer, they are working harder, and they are increasing their productivity--but effectively their wages are stagnant.

What kind of life do these American workers face? They face an increase in their health insurance. Their wages are stagnant, their health insurance costs increase 59 percent; college tuition for their children is up 35 percent; housing is up 36 percent; and gas 38 percent. We just passed an energy bill. You would have thought in an energy bill we would try to do something about the cost of gas that working families and middle-income families are paying every single day. Right? Wrong. Wrong. We did nothing. We did nothing about the increased cost of gas.

We took care of the major companies that are producing it, but effectively we have done nothing that has helped the workers in that particular program.

Look at what has happened. This President is the first President since Herbert Hoover to lose private sector jobs. These are the figures: 2001, 111,622,000 were working in the private sector. Now we are 111,598,000 in May of 2005. We have seen the reduction of jobs that are available in the private sector. There has been some growth, but it has all been in the public sector, not the private sector.

I saw the earlier presentation of the Senator from Colorado. He talked about the recoveries we have had. We have seen in this recovery of this administration, it is the lowest one we have had in recent years. What we find now is, as a result, we have 7.6 million Americans who are out of work; 1.6 million more unemployed than in 2001. These are the numbers of Americans who are out of work. The ones who are working are working longer and working harder.

This is a quote from Kevin Hassed, director of Economic Policy Studies, the American Enterprise Institute, which is a conservative institute:

Usually at this point in a recovery job creation is skyrocketing, but so far that hasn't happened: It's not a partisan issue, it's a fact. The labor market is worse than in a typical recovery.

These are the economic conditions. Now we have of those 7.6 million Americans, they are trying to compete for job openings. There are 3.6 million job openings in this country. These are hard-working Americans, trying to compete for a limited number of jobs.

Another very important point to know about the condition of American workers is the number of those who are long-term unemployed. We have seen that grow from 680,000 in 2001 to this in May of 2005, up 1.5 million. These are the workers who have been unemployed for 26 weeks or longer. This is an indication of the stagnation of our economy. Here we have seen 2.8 million manufacturing jobs lost over the period since 2001. There it is, 2.8 million jobs lost, manufacturing jobs lost.

They have been lost in virtually every one of the States; 47 States have lost manufacturing jobs. Now we are being asked to pass another piece of legislation that is going to accelerate that? That is what this legislation will do.

We know what is happening to the American workforce. They are working longer, harder. They have a greater increase in productivity. Their wages are flat. The things they pay for are going through the roof. And we know those workers are going to lose their jobs. What jobs are out there for them? This is the growth in the next decade, low-paying occupations. Seven of the ten fastest growing occupations pay $27,000 a year: Retail, food prep, cashiers, janitors, waiters, customer reps, and nursing reps.

We should be in the Senate debating and arguing how we can ensure our workforce is employed in the country that has the greatest economy, certainly the greatest national security, and the greatest military. We want to keep it that way. The way to keep strong is with a manufacturing base. The way to do that is invest, invest, invest; invest in those workers to make sure they have good training, upgrade their training, invest in innovative and creative ways to expand our ability to manufacture and expand.

Are we debating those issues? No, we are trying to pass legislation that is going to put workers that do have jobs at greater risk. That is what this does.

It is against this background I mention the latest UNICEF study from 2004 revealed Costa Rica has 127,000 children working in their plants. Guatemala, virtually the same. Those countries are virtually the same. Will this legislation get those children out of those plants and factories? No. Absolutely, no.

The interesting aspect, there is one limited program sponsored by the Labor Department that permits the Labor Department to inspect plants and factories across the country regarding employment of child labor. What did this administration do? It cut the guts out of it, 80 percent of the appropriation. They cut the guts out of it. Does this add up or make sense; an 80-percent reduction in appropriations of the program that provides the inspection for child labor in these countries? The children are going to be in those sweat houses. Our workers will be losing jobs. The American workers are going to be losing jobs. There is virtually no penalty. Actually, yes, there is a penalty that could be imposed against the country but not against the specific industry. The industries really do not care. Those countries will be negotiating those penalties.

It does not have to be this way. We ought to be able to have a program that is going to be fair to American workers, uplift the working conditions of those countries around the world, and also be something that all members of this Senate would be proud to support. That is not this legislation. It is heavily flawed. As a result, there will be not only enormous numbers of people in that region that are going to be exploited, but we will pay for it with the price of American workers.

I yield back my remaining time.

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