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Public Statements

Congressional Record Statement

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

(At the request of Mr. DASCHLE, the following statement was ordered to be printed in the RECORD.)
Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, tonight the Senate passed implementing legislation for the Chile and Singapore Free Trade Agreements. These FTAs are comprehensive in nature and will serve well the interests of the United States. But they are not without flaws. I want the record to reflect my concerns and, more importantly, I want to make clear that I believe the direction the Bush administration is taking in the on-going negotiations over the Central American Free Trade Agreement and the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas is unacceptable.

Chile is an excellent candidate for a free trade agreement. It has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The agreement the Senate has passed tonight should facilitate a general expansion of American exports, particularly in electronics and transportation equipment industries. This will create good work and good jobs here in America. More broadly, Chile is the first Latin American country to join in a free trade agreement with the United States, and that will allow the United States to more directly support economic and social reform in Latin America and will serve as a major stepping stone for enhanced hemispheric trade and job growth here at home.

Singapore is also an excellent candidate. Singapore is our 12th largest export market. The country provides a critical link between the United States and South East Asia and Singapore is the second largest Asian investor in the United States after Japan. Although the economic effects of the Singapore agreement are not likely to be great, this FTA would add a formal economic link to our significant security relationship with Singapore. It is an agreement that will ultimately build greater trade and create jobs here in America.

Chile and Singapore both have laudable records in financial regulation and transparency and have demonstrated a commitment to fundamental worker protections. For example, Chile has adopted several international labor rights conventions. The United States, by contrast, has adopted only two. The performance of these two countries in these areas, and their status as models of reform in their respective regions, make these trade agreements desirable. That is not to say these nations are not without problems or that further improvement is not needed. It is to make clear that these nations have made progress, are striving to improve, and that these agreements will only help them develop and enforce more advanced policies. And more importantly, these agreements will not put American workers at risk of unfair competition.

But, as I have said, there are flaws with these agreements. Over the past decade, the treatment of labor and environmental issues in trade agreements has evolved both in emphasis and enforcement. NAFTA represents an early stage in this evolution, addressing labor and environmental issues in the context of the agreement, albeit in side accords. The United States-Jordan Free Trade Agreement was the first FTA to include labor provisions in the actual text of the agreement and to subject those provisions to the same dispute settlement procedure as all other elements of the agreement.

Although the Chile and Singapore agreements should be the next step forward in this evolution towards strong and effectively enforced labor and environmental standards, they are in fact a step back. Unlike the United States-Jordan FTA, the only labor provision subject to dispute settlement is the requirement that each trading partner enforce its existing labor laws.

In addition, the Bush administration, specifically the United States Trade Representative, included provisions in this agreement related to immigration policy. The result is that America will allow the temporary entry of more than 6,000 foreign professionals for employment. This is not wise economic policy in good times and it is only worse economic policy in our current recession. Further, it amends unrelated immigration law, and I believe the Bush administration has abused fast track authority in doing so.

The final point I want to make this evening is, in my view, the most important. The Bush administration has made clear that it plans to use the Chile and Singapore FTAs as models or templates for future trade negotiations. I feel strongly that future negotiations must reflect the particular concerns and uniqueness of each trading partner. This seems obvious, but those who follow trade negotiations have warned that the Bush administration may claim that the standards of the Chile and Singapore agreements are universally applicable and, in particular, should apply to CAFTA and FTAA. Let me be as direct as possible: If the CAFTA and FTAA agreements do not include labor and environmental protections that are far, far stronger than the Chile and Singapore agreements I will oppose them as strenuously as I can.

The administration's one-size-fits-all approach will not work. Many of the nations considering inclusion in CAFTA and FTAA have no or low standards to protect workers and the environment and enforcement is nonexistent in some areas.
Worker and environmental protections in the group of six Central American countries participating in CAFTA are not comparable to those in Singapore and Chile, for example. Some have not enacted or do not enforce basic labor standards that we take for granted, including bans on child and forced labor, non-discrimination and the right of workers to associate and bargain collectively. In Nicaragua and Guatemala employees cannot strike against poor working conditions, pay and benefits without government approval. And it is common for workers seeking better conditions to be physically intimidated and abused.

In CAFTA, the Bush administration is running a race to the bottom. Even basic rights, like the right to be protected from physical violence, are cast aside in the name of business profit. That is a policy that exploits not only the people of these Central American nations, but Americans as well. It exploits American workers who are forced to compete hopelessly against companies that abide by no rules whatsoever.

[Page S10579]

Consistent with my long held views on trade, I have made the decision to do what I can to force a change of course in the CAFTA and FTAA negotiations, to ensure that those agreements enshrine, within the four corners of the agreement and with equal standing, specific labor and environmental protections that are fully enforced. I will accept no less. For example, fundamental labor standards like the right of association, the right to collectively bargain, prohibitions against child and forced labor, prohibitions against discrimination and other basic rights must be included. And these provisions must be subject to the same dispute settlement procedure as all other elements of the agreement.

I believe that trade is good for America, for our working families and for the international community. A race to the bottom—trade without rules—the sort of trade policy the Bush administration is pursuing in CAFTA and FTAA is not good for America, our workers or the international community, and I will oppose it.·

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