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Trade Policy

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC

TRADE POLICY -- (Senate - June 13, 2007)

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, thank you to my colleague from Ohio. It is so wonderful to have this strong voice, a leader in the House of Representatives on trade and manufacturing and all the issues that affect middle-class families and to now have Senator Brown joining us in the Senate. It is such a benefit for all of us who care deeply about keeping the middle class in this country, about making sure we move forward with a 21st century manufacturing strategy that works for our country in a global economy. I thank the Senator from Ohio for his words and also join with him and with our wonderful colleague from North Dakota who has been such a champion on issues of fair trade.

First, I will start by reinforcing what has been happening to manufacturing in the last 6 1/2 years. In this country, we have lost over 3 million manufacturing jobs. Why should we care about 3 million jobs that people raised their kids on, sent them to college--middle-class families with good jobs, good incomes, with health care, with pensions? These are the jobs that have created the middle class of this country. That is not rhetoric. That is a fact.

These are those kinds of jobs, even though they are different. This is not your father's factory. These are new, advanced technology manufacturing jobs now that are being created. But in the future these are needed if we are going to keep the middle class of this country. That is why we are on the floor of the Senate, to express deep concern about the incredibly poor judgment and lack of attention coming from this administration and coming, in general, from those all together making policy that relates to trade and how we compete in a global economy.

We have to pay attention before it is too late, before we lose our economic competitiveness in a global economy, our ability to make things.

I believe any economy is based on the ability to make things and grow things and add value to that. We have to have a strong, vibrant manufacturing economy in order to be able to move forward and compete around the globe now.

We did hold a manufacturing summit, I think the first of its kind in the Senate, last week. I was very proud that Senator Reid, our leader, enthusiastically supported us bringing together 70 different CEOs and high-ranking manufacturing leaders, as well as those representing their labor force, their unions, to come together and talk about what has happened in manufacturing and how we in the Senate can be supportive of keeping manufacturing competitive--a level playing field, which is all we are asking for in a global economy.

We heard some desperate pleas for us to pay attention to what is going on. Over and over again these CEO's talked with us about the fact that in a global economy, now competing with nonmarket economies such as China, they in fact are not competing with companies, they are competing with countries. We go out in the marketplace. There are rules required of our companies to be able to put a plant in another country or have local content in China with auto suppliers. You can't send it in and do business with China. You have to make the product there. Their country owns part of the business or provides great incentives, through a variety of other policies. Yet we are not paying attention. Unfortunately, this administration has not gotten what is happening when we talk about currency manipulation and counterfeiting and all the other policy issues that have put our companies at a disadvantage.

We are happy to export in a global economy. We wish to export our products, not our jobs. Right now we are exporting too many of our jobs.

What is the reality? When China went into the WTO in 2001, we were told two things: our trade deficit would go down and that our jobs would go up. Unfortunately, the facts are exactly the opposite; a $83 billion trade deficit with China. Last year that number skyrocketed to $288 billion, from $83 billion to $288 billion. It is certainly not going down. We have seen the Economic Policy Institute release a study 2 weeks ago that revealed 1.8 million jobs have been displaced through trade with China alone since they entered the World Trade Organization. They promised they would follow the rules. That is part of how you become part of the WTO. We were told: Support them so they can become a part of this international organization, where they will be required to follow the same rules as everybody else. They have not and we have lost, with China alone, 1.8 million good-paying, middle-class jobs.

It is now time to say enough is enough. In fact, 11 agreements have been completed since this administration, new trade agreements. Yet to enforce the agreements, the money has actually gone down by 17 percent. There is no willingness to understand what is going on.

In the counterfeiting business, we have a $12 billion counterfeit auto parts industry alone. What does that mean? These are auto parts coming in that do not meet our safety standards. The brakes may look the same, but if you go to a shelf and say I want this one because it is cheaper and put it in your car, it doesn't meet safety regulations. What happens when you are driving with your kids in the car? These are serious issues for what happens when auto parts are brought in, in a counterfeit manner.

Now, $12 billion worth of counterfeit auto parts have come in. In fact, in the last 5 years, we have lost 250,000 jobs in America because of that, and we have seen six of our Nation's largest auto suppliers go into bankruptcy. This is no accident. We don't have a policy. We passed, here, a counterfeit policy to strengthen our counterfeiting laws and the administration doesn't even use those. They have turned a blind eye. We have lost 250,000 jobs. We have seen our largest auto suppliers going into bankruptcy--Delphi, Dana Corp., Collins & Aikman, Federal-Mogul, Tower Automotive, and Dura Automotive.

Our job is to fight for our businesses that are competing in a global economy where other countries are not following the rules.

Let me give one other example, and I will be happy to turn to my colleague from North Dakota, the issue of currency manipulation. When we say currency manipulation, most people's eyes glaze over. What does that mean? Because a country such as China or Japan, when it comes to the auto industry, purposely keeps their currency down in value, they get a discount on the exchange rate when they bring their product into this country. In China, for instance, again, where we look at an auto part, the same auto parts that are being pirated, snuck into America or they are stealing the patents and making them illegally in China--if they actually bring them in, they also, on top of everything else, get a discount. They can sell the same auto part, the same bolt for $60 that we sell for $100 here, a $40 difference.

When you add that up, that is a $40 discount. On top of that, they are not paying health care the way we structure it. We are the only industrialized country that puts that on the backs of our businesses.

They are following a whole different set of rules. Their wages are dramatically lower. When we say to our auto suppliers or we say to our furniture makers or we say to others: Why can't you compete in a global economy, well, Mr. President, the manufacturers who joined us last week, and the great manufacturers in Michigan I go home and speak with every single weekend are saying: Look around you. We are competitive. We can be competitive. We are productive, but we have to have a Federal Government that partners with us so we have a level playing field on which to operate. Don't let the other team go down to the 20-yard line toward the goal. Put us both on the 50, have the level playing field, and we will compete with anybody and American ingenuity and hard work will win. That is what fair trade policies are all about.

I yield now to my colleague from North Dakota who comes to the floor every day speaking out on these issues and who has been a powerful voice for American workers and free trade.


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