TRADE AND LABOR -- (House of Representatives - May 21, 2007)
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Ms. SCHAKOWSKY. I thank the gentleman whose leadership I appreciate so much on this very important issue. You have beautifully filled the footsteps, the shoes, of your predecessor, Congressman Lane Evans, who was also a champion for workers' rights, for the rights of ordinary people. And I appreciate that you are standing up for millions of American workers who have suffered from the trade policies that we have had.
I think it is important to note that the new class of Members who joined this Congress, far from being unsophisticated, understand that the trade policies that have been negotiated have harmed their constituents not just in the Rust Belt of the Midwest but around this country and brought those issues to their constituents and, vice versa, listened to their constituents.
Look, we all understand that this is a global world, that globalization is a reality, but now we need to control it and this Congress now has to reassert its authority over U.S. trade policy. We have an opportunity to do that now, to make sure that it works not only for the wealthiest multinational corporations but for workers and for our environment. So I appreciate very much the leadership that others have shown, particularly you, Mr. Hare, tonight with this special order.
On May 10, 2007, the Bush administration officials and congressional leaders announced a new trade deal. While the agreement does show real progress in terms of moving the Bush administration in the direction of enforcing labor and environmental standards, the details of the negotiated package and their real-life impact are not clear and are troubling.
So while I want to applaud the work of Chairman Rangel and others to make major improvements to the labor and environmental provisions, I have to say, frankly, that I have no confidence that the Bush administration, the same administration that has relentlessly attacked the rights of workers right here at home, let alone in other countries, would enforce those standards.
We have yet to see the text of the proposed agreements, ``the deal,'' but a detailed description has been made available by the Ways and Means Committee and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and I am concerned that an outdated trade model that has decimated U.S. manufacturing remains intact.
Over 3 million manufacturing jobs have been lost since NAFTA took effect. I think many of those who voted for NAFTA would agree that it has not worked out in favor of the United States and its workers, or Mexican workers either, for that matter. American wages since then have stagnated and our trade deficit has ballooned to a staggering $717 billion. It is not a model we want to mimic. It is no wonder that no union or environmental group or small business has supported the deal, while all of big business has.
There are those who suggest that those of us who have serious questions about the deal on trade are just mad about being left out of a press conference or, similarly, are wasting time so we delay the process. But the truth is there are substantive critical issues that affect these millions of Americans that we are speaking for tonight.
The deal provides no assurances, for example, against a free trade agreement with Colombia, the country with the world's highest rate of labor union assassinations, or countries like Korea that continue to use every means to block American products, or the renewal of Fast Track trade authority.
Instead of delivering on the public's demand for a new trade policy, the deal facilitates more Bush trade deals that contain the worst provisions of NAFTA and CAFTA. Even if the deal is 100 percent implemented, resulting trade pacts would extend the NAFTA-CAFTA model.
The deal would ban U.S. efforts to prohibit offshoring jobs and to ban buy-American policies. How could Democrats, who have been fighting to expand and preserve such important U.S. policies, support a trade agreement that explicitly bans those very same policies?
The deal does absolutely nothing to address the free trade agreement threats to Federal and State prevailing wage guarantees. Nothing was done.
The deal allows the country of Peru to be sued if they dare to reverse its failed social security privatization plan. Seeing that Democrats actually beat back the Bush proposal for privatization of our Social Security plan, Peru's labor federation asked democratic trade leaders to fix this problem. Yet it is unaddressed in this deal.
The deal fails to remove the outrageous NAFTA Chapter 11 foreign investor privileges that create incentives for U.S. firms to move offshore and expose our most basic environmental, health, zoning and other laws to attack in foreign tribunals. We won't as a sovereign state even be able to protect those kinds of important laws.
The deal does nothing to address FTA- and NAFTA-style agricultural rules that will foreseeably result in widespread displacement of peasant farmers, increasing hunger, social unrest and desperate immigration. We talk about immigration and people crossing our border, and yet we have trade policies that impoverish farmers in Mexico, who quite naturally are going to do anything they can to protect their families and are willing to risk their lives in the desert to come to the United States. Trade is part and should be part of our immigration debate. This deal does absolutely nothing.
Mr. Speaker, what I want to say is that this is a moment of opportunity where a Democratic majority in Congress can get a grip on these trade policies to set a new direction that raises all workers around the world, that respects our environment at such a critical moment in history, that really does good, not just for the rights of multinational corporations who show no loyalty to any country but to our workers and hard-working people around the world.
We can do better, we should do better, and we have an obligation to our constituents to do better. That is all we are asking for. Let's go back to the drawing boards, not forever, not for an unlimited period of time, but let's go back to the drawing boards and create something that we all can be proud of in this country.
Thank you so much, Mr. Hare, for your leadership.
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