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Free Trade Agreements

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS

Mr. MCCAIN. Mr. President, I support swift passage of the U.S.-Chile and U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement Implementation Acts, S. 1416 and S. 1417, respectively. These are the first in what I hope will be a long list of trade agreement implementation bills necessary to enact trade deals negotiated and signed by the President under the authority granted him by Congress last year.

Stemming from the Trade Act of 2002, which included Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), agreements such as the two before us are helping to reestablish U.S. credibility in the area of trade. The President and his administration are now able to more freely negotiate, encouraging countries once reluctant to begin trade negotiations with the U.S. to come to the table. The U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement and the U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement are prime examples of the United States' commitment to free and open trade. I hope they provide a launching pad for new trade agreements with key partners in every region of the world.

Our staunchest allies and most important trading partners have had reason to doubt our dedication to the free trade principles we have long advocated as a driving force of prosperity and stability. A series of short-sighted, protectionist actions in recent years has jeopardized our relationships with our most important trading partners. That makes enactment of these bilateral free trade agreements even more important.

These agreements may not have a dramatic economic impact in the United States, but they are sure to yield benefits to American consumers and businesses. Enactment of agreements such as those before us help us regain our credibility and leadership in championing free-trade principles around the world. I hope they set a precedent for more aggressive liberalization of our trade with other nations in Asia, Latin America, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.

I commend Ambassador Zoellick for his efforts to bring these free trade agreements to fruition, as well as for his commitment to exhaustive consultations with Congress. Our agreement with Chile is one more step towards our goal of a Free Trade Area of the Americas, on which we all hope to see greater progress. Our agreement with Singapore, a key ally in the war on terror, will hopefully help propel future trade liberalization in Southeast Asia, one of the world's most dynamic regions.

As it stands now, Singapore is our 12th largest trading partner, and our largest trading partner in the strategic region of Southeast Asia. This agreement would eliminate many barriers to trade and investment, and improve market access and opportunities for U.S. goods and services. In addition, this agreement would provide regulatory reforms and transparency, two key components in establishing the strong ties and trust necessary for trade.

Implementation of the negotiated agreement with Chile would place us on an equal footing with the European Union and Canada, which already enjoy their own FTAs with Chile. Despite having to play market access catch-up, our farmers and ranchers will enjoy duty-free access to Chile's markets within 12 years; and computer and other information technology products, medical equipment, and other goods will gain immediate duty-free access.

Throughout the negotiating process, environmental and labor matters received considerable scrutiny. The FTAs address
these concerns through provisions laid out in both agreements that call for Singapore and Chile to provide a high level of environmental protection, and require each nation to endeavor to improve upon their laws where necessary. Each nation is to reaffirm its obligations as part of the International Labor Organization and strive to make sure its laws reflect the labor principles therein.

These negotiations and the agreements they have produced are a good start towards accomplishing Congress' purpose for passing the Trade Act last year: an aggressive agenda to liberalize trade with key partners, producing comprehensive agreements which reduce barriers to trade, providing tangible benefits to American consumers and businesses, and reestablishing our credibility and leadership in championing free trade principles around the world.

I am, however, concerned that immigration provisions contained in these trade bills set a bad precedent. Although I support the spirit of these provisions, I strongly believe that changes to U.S. immigration policy should be thoroughly debated in Congress and such modifications do not belong in trade agreements negotiated between our government and other nations. I discourage their inclusion in future trade agreements.

Overall, these are fine examples of what Congress intended when we passed TPA. I hope we will soon see action on free trade agreements that are currently being negotiated with Australia, Central America, Morocco, Southern Africa, and others in the not too distant future. I also would like to see the Administration take concrete steps to liberalize trade in the greater Middle East, in effect operationalizing the President's call for a free trade area there within a decade.

Finally, I hope that the administration, with Congress's support, can make significant progress in the next round of global
trade talks this fall. Global trade liberalization through the World Trade Organization is the most effective and efficient way to bring down barriers to trade, the best way to open the markets of key trading partners in Europe and Asia, and to enforce free trade principles. The conclusion of economically meaningful bilateral trade agreements, coupled with an aggressive campaign for global trade liberalization, will reestablish our credibility and leadership on free trade and energize the American and global economies. America and the world will be better off as a result.

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