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Transportation, Treasury, The Judiciary, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2006

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


TRANSPORTATION, TREASURY, THE JUDICIARY, HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2006

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Ms. STABENOW. Madam President, I rise to thank both our distinguished chairman of this subcommittee, Senator Bond, and distinguished ranking member, Senator Murray, for their leadership on this important bill and for their words of support for my amendment.

This amendment addresses the need to make sure that we are enforcing our trade laws so that we have a level playing field for businesses and workers in America with all of our trading partners. It designates and authorizes a specific amount of money that would allow us to do that.

In my home State of Michigan, this is absolutely critical for us right now, as we see all of the challenges in the international marketplace. We need to make sure that we are giving every business, every worker, a level playing field, and we are doing everything we can to enforce our trade laws so that we have the opportunity to be exporting our products and not our jobs.

That should be the goal of all of us. I appreciate the fact that there is a willingness to support my amendment.

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Ms. STABENOW. Madam President, if there is not someone else wishing to speak, I will expand on what is happening as it relates to Michigan now and why this is so important as an amendment.

I thank colleagues for working with us and helping us to modify the amendment and to accept it today.

What is important for all of us, but particularly in Michigan now, as we are the heart and soul of manufacturing, is, as we see our President, our Secretary of Treasury, moving forward in discussions with China and Japan--the President is going next month to China and Japan--that we send with him the strongest possible support, which this amendment does, for us saying we need to enforce all of our trade laws. We need to make sure we are leveling the playing field, and we are giving every possible fair advantage to American workers and to businesses.

Unfortunately, we have our trading partners--some of our trading partners right now--who are, in fact, violating our trade laws which is costing us jobs at home, especially in the great State of Michigan. This amendment will send a very important message that we want things like illegal trade practices regarding currency manipulation to stop.

The President's upcoming trip is a very important time. Currently, Chinese and Japanese trade policies are costing us jobs, including our middle-class families, because of the fact that they peg their currency in a way that means it costs us more to sell to them than it costs them to sell to us. In my State, I have heard from so many businesses saying that the cost differential has made a huge difference in their being able to successfully compete on bids for contracts or to sell their products. We know that has been happening, and we need to stop it. We need to enforce our trade laws.

We also need to crack down on the counterfeiting of American manufactured goods. We need to stop the pirating of intellectual property. We have the great brainpower. We are developing all the new ideas and the new patents. It is not right--in fact, it is illegal--for other countries to be able to take that information and make products that compete and undercut us and cost us jobs.

Last week, Delphi, which is our Nation's largest autoparts supplier, declared bankruptcy, threatening 15,000 jobs in Michigan and more than 33,000 across the country. In terms of assets, this bankruptcy is the largest ever in the United States, surpassing the reorganizations of Kmart and WorldCom. The Delphi bankruptcy should serve as a wake-up call to all of us in the Congress, in the administration, and in the country, to the fact that we can no longer tolerate unfair trade practices and that we need to tackle the cost of health care and what is happening on pensions and make sure our workers do not lose their pensions in the process of all of this happening.

Unless we put a stop to the unfair trade practices, our economy will continue to spiral downward, and I believe we are in jeopardy of losing our way of life. I don't say that lightly. I don't say that to be melodramatic. But when we have people working at Delphi being told that now in order to compete internationally, they have to take possibly a 63-percent pay cut--that has been in the news, possibly a 63-percent pay cut--we are not talking about just cutting back on wages. We are talking about changing one's entire way of life. In the great State of Michigan we make things and we grow things, and we do it very well. We have been at the forefront of the economic engine of our country, just as all manufacturing has been. But if we are going to say it is acceptable now for people to make $10 an hour and that somehow we can't help it, we are going to lose manufacturing in this country, and we are not looking at what we can do to save our way of life.

We have to say that every trade agreement is one that creates a race up, not a race down, and that we are going to enforce every trade agreement. We are going to make sure other countries are not stealing our patents, are not creating counterfeit parts, are not manipulating their currency or doing other things that cause us to have a disadvantage in the marketplace and to lose jobs.

I believe so strongly about what needs to happen as it relates to manufacturers. I have concerns when I hear comments such as: We are not going to be able to manufacture anymore. We will have to do something else.

An economy has to be based on making things, creating things, not just a service economy. We have to have a foundation based on manufacturing. Has manufacturing changed? Of course, it has. I invite any colleague to come join me on any plant floor, and they will see something that is clean and quiet and computerized, with highly skilled workers. Of course, it has changed. Of course, it is high tech. But it is still there, and it needs to be there. If we are not serious about enforcing our trade laws, creating the right kind of trade laws, we are going to lose it and our way of life. That is not acceptable. That is why there is nothing more important to me than fighting for our jobs and our manufacturers and making sure that we maintain the high standard of living that has created this great country. That is what this is all about.

Let me mention one area that is so important to Delphi. That is the area of counterfeit autoparts. We know that right now, according to our auto suppliers nationally, we are losing $12 billion every year to counterfeit autoparts. That equates to about 200,000 jobs. We need to say in the strongest possible terms that we expect that to stop. It is a jobs issue. It is a safety issue. It needs to stop. We can do that. We are not in a weak or hopeless situation. We have the ability to stand up, to say to our trading partners: It is not acceptable. We will use every tool possible to stop counterfeit autoparts. We will use every tool possible to stop currency manipulation, to stop the stealing of our patents.

That is what my amendment addresses, sending that word and--not just a word--creating an action. We are beyond just talk. We have to have action because every day we do not have action, the great people in my State are under the threat of losing their jobs, their pension, and their way of life.

I thank my colleagues again for supporting this amendment. We are at a place in time, in the history of the country where we have to take very seriously what is happening to our great industries that have created the ability for folks to have a good standard of living, to have the home and the car, in my great State the cottage up north, the boat, to send the kids to college, and pay into a pension all their life and know it is going to be there.

That is what is threatened today in our country by policies that don't get it. We have to have trade policies that work for American jobs and American workers. We have to have enforcement of those trade policies. We have to tackle the cost of health care and change the way we do it to get it off the backs of our businesses. And we have to make sure that people who have worked all their lives and pay into a pension will be able to have that when they retire.

I thank my colleagues, again, and I yield the floor.

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