January 20, 2006
Kildee Accused of Standing Up For American Jobs
Kildee Asks U.S. Trade Officials to Explain Invitation to a Special Interest Group Seeking to Influence U.S.-Thailand Trade Agreement
WASHINGTON - Today, Congressman Dale E. Kildee (D-MI) acknowledged assertions from a special interest group that he is representing the best interests of American auto workers and manufacturers. Kildee's public opposition to provisions of a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between the U.S. and Thailand that would directly threaten American jobs was noted by the American International Automobile Dealers Association (AIADA), who labeled Kildee a "protectionist" in postings on the group's website. Kildee was joined by senior members of the Michigan Congressional delegation in writing to U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Rob Portman about the questionable role AIADA has played in those FTA negotiations and to find out USTR's position towards outside influence in trade talks that are supposed to represent the best interests of the American people.
"The assertions by AIADA about their privileged role in U.S.-Thailand FTA negotiations call into question why the USTR, presumably representing American interests in global trade talks, is inviting a special-interest organization to meet with a foreign government to push a common agenda against American workers and manufacturers," Kildee said. "With negotiating tactics such as these, it is any wonder why our trade deficits continue to set new records?"
Congressman Kildee was joined by Michigan Representatives John D. Dingell (D-Dearborn), Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) and Joe Knollenberg (R-Bloomfield Hills) in writing to USTR today, asking them to explain their willingness to invite a special interest group to the trade negotiations. According to a January 6th article posted on AIADA's website, the organization was "exclusively" invited to Thailand by the Office of the USTR to "ensure repeal of the 25 percent tariff of Thai pick-up trucks." AIADA further stated that they would be meeting jointly with USTR and Thai trade officials during the negotiations.
The Kildee letter seeks an answer from USTR on whether AIADA's invitation to participate was an exclusive one, as well as an explanation of official USTR policy on the involvement of private interests in trade negotiations between the U.S. and foreign governments. Kildee called specific attention to the possibility that such groups could be providing information to foreign nations that could be used against USTR in trade talks.
A tariff removal would permit third-party nations, such as South Korea, Japan and India, to use Thailand as a back door into the U.S. automotive market at a time when the domestic auto industry is already hemorrhaging jobs due to unfair trade policies. It would directly threaten ten pickup truck assembly plants in eight states which employ approximately 20,000 Americans. Thousands more jobs are dependent on this domestic production and hundreds of thousands of American jobs in research and development are reliant on a strong, vibrant domestic auto manufacturing industry.
Congressman Kildee has led the effort in Congress to ensure the current U.S. pickup truck tariff is not removed. In April of last year, over 200 bipartisan Members of Congress co-signed Kildee's letter to USTR warning of the impact on American jobs if U.S. tariff provisions with Thailand are changed. In November, Congressman Kildee introduced H.R. 4407, a bill calling for an immediate termination of any current free trade agreement negotiations upon passage. Kildee's bill would put an end to the U.S.-Thailand FTA and help preserve the American automobile industry.
Nearly three million manufacturing jobs have been lost since the Bush Administration took office in 2001. U.S. trade policies have contributed to a record deficit of $661.8 billion for the first eleven months of 2005, surpassing the previous record of $617.6 billion set in 2004. Congressman Kildee has voted against every harmful trade agreement responsible for these staggering figures, including NAFTA, CAFTA, the U.S.-Chile FTA, the U.S.-Singapore FTA and the U.S.-Australia FTA. He has also voted against legislation establishing the General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), normalizing permanent trade relations with China (PNTR), and fast-track trade promotion authority, which prevents Congress from amending free trade agreements.