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

Floor Speech

Location: Washington DC



Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time and, more importantly, for his distinguished leadership on many issues concerning America's working families. I know I speak for all our colleagues when I say it is a privilege to call the gentleman from New York (Mr. Rangel) colleague.

I also extend my thanks to the distinguished ranking member of the Subcommittee on Trade, the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Cardin), for his very, very substantive review of this CAFTA treaty. It has been an enormous help to Members, and I thank him for his leadership as well.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to the Central American Free Trade Agreement. It is a small treaty economically, but it has enormous implications for our country. I oppose CAFTA because it is a step backward for workers in Central America and a job killer here at home.

As a Californian, and there are many of us in the Chamber this evening, we all know full well the significance of our close ties to Central America. My own city of San Francisco is blessed with large populations of Central Americans, including those who sought sanctuary from El Salvador and those fleeing decades of civil war in Guatemala. Our fate is tied with our neighbors in the hemisphere.

President John F. Kennedy recognized this in 1961 when he announced the Alliance for Progress calling for ``vast multilateral programs to relieve the continent's poverty and social inequities.'' The Alliance for Progress included both economic cooperation and called for economic reforms as conditions of participation, just as we call for stronger labor and environmental standards today as the reasonable condition for trade agreements.

Mr. Speaker, I wish that the CAFTA bill we are debating tonight were an agreement that opened markets, included basic labor standards, and protected our environment. This type of agreement would have lifted the economies of both the United States and Central America. It would have attracted support from a large number of Democratic Members who have long histories of supporting free and fair trade, including recent trade agreements with Australia, Singapore, Chile, Morocco, Jordan, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Unfortunately, that is not the type of trade agreement before us tonight.

Instead, we are considering a trade agreement that promotes a race to the bottom, that hurts U.S. workers, that turns back the clock on basic internationally accepted worker protections, and fails to protect the environment. As a result, the Republican leadership is having a hard time convincing its own Members to vote for this bill.

We have heard our colleague earlier, the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Brown), talking about twisting arms until they are broken into a thousand pieces. The New York Times today, the gentleman referenced The New York Times, so I will too, said that a White House official said that the last votes are likely to be won with the most expensive deals. We should be able to pass good fair trade agreement treaties on their merits. Instead, the administration is trying to persuade people with side bars, side letters, and side deals. They have never worked in the past. They are just a con. And I hope that our colleagues will not fall for the con.

In their desperation to win votes, the President and the Republican leadership in the House have also proclaimed that CAFTA here tonight will promote U.S. security and democracy in Central America. The truth is if we want to improve our national security and promote democracy there, we should heed the words of Pope Paul VI, who said ``If you want peace, work for justice.''

Trade alone, devoid of basic living and working standards, has not and will not promote security, nor will it lift developing nations out of poverty. Our national security will not be improved by exploiting workers in Central America.

Here at home, this CAFTA threatens U.S. jobs by making it harder for American businesses and farmers to compete with countries that have excessively low wages and deficient working conditions. Mr. Speaker, I repeat: here at home CAFTA threatens U.S. jobs by making it harder for American businesses and farmers to compete with countries that have excessively low wages and deficient working conditions. We have lost 2.8 million manufacturing jobs since President Bush took office. CAFTA does not solve the jobs problem; it only digs the hole deeper.

These downward pressures create a race to the bottom that needlessly threaten U.S. jobs. Nothing in this agreement will help raise substandard wages in Central America or help create a strong middle class that has the disposable income to buy U.S. goods. Democrats understand the need to help our Central American neighbors reap the benefits of increased trade, but the cost of this CAFTA are too high, with too little to justify this agreement's deficiencies.

We must have basic worker protections which ensure that our trading partners abide by the most fundamental standards of common decency and fairness. The CAFTA we are debating today fails to promote these basic measures of decency and fairness and, in fact, takes a step backward from current law because it removes the requirement from these countries to abide by the workers' rights standards of the international labor standards.

When it comes to the environment, Democrats believe that environmental principles must be a central part of the core trade agreement. CAFTA will do absolutely nothing to improve environmental protection in Central America, and it will open up our own environmental laws to attack by foreign corporations.

My colleagues, this CAFTA allows multinational corporations to sue governments, including our own, for compensation if the environmental laws reduce the value of their investment or cut their profits. I repeat: CAFTA allows multinational corporations to sue governments, including our own, for compensation if an environmental law reduces the value of their investment or cuts into their profits.

CAFTA places no value on the environmental health of the Americas. Moreover, the enforcement provisions of this CAFTA are virtually nonexistent. It merely calls for CAFTA countries to enforce their own laws. Enforcement in these areas must be written in to CAFTA if they are to be effective. They are not.

Democrats believe that to keep America in the lead, the Nation must adopt a bold new and sustained commitment to technological innovation and educational excellence. That commitment would ensure that our country remains competitive and vibrant against formidable international competition, generating high-quality jobs throughout the 21st century.

We are committed to addressing challenges of increasing competitive global market. Our economic future rests on our ability to innovate new products and to create new markets for those goods and services. We insist that this administration revisit its flawed trade policy and work with Democrats so that we can pass free trade agreements, including a new improved CAFTA that will expand markets, spur economic growth, protect the environment, and raise living standards in the United States and abroad. That would allow us to move forward with our other priorities.

Mr. Speaker, American families are facing serious challenges: rising health care costs, record gas prices, climbing college costs, and massive job layoffs. They are worried about the direction of our country. Instead of addressing the serious issues that directly affect America's families and coming up with real solutions, Republicans have abused their power and focused on the wrong priorities: pursuing an energy bill that does nothing to lower gas prices or a Social Security privatization plan that weakens the safety net for America's elderly.

Sadly, this trade agreement and the way it has been pursued by the administration has become yet another example of those misplaced priorities and missed opportunities. Again, President Kennedy said in 1961 that the United States and Latin America are ``firm and ancient friends, united by history and experience and by our determination to advance the values of American civilization. We must support all economic integration, which is a genuine step toward larger markets and greater competitive opportunity.'' It was true then; it is an inspiration now.

I urge my colleagues to send this CAFTA back to the drawing board. The administration can negotiate a new CAFTA that will open new markets, include basic labor standards, and protect the environment. Such an agreement would attract strong bipartisan support. This CAFTA does none of the above. It does not protect the environment, it does not grow the economy in our country, it does not lift the living standard in Central America, and it does not have my support. Vote ``no'' on this CAFTA.


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