UNITED STATES-AUSTRALIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT
Mr. GRAHAM of South Carolina. Mr. President, I do not consider myself a protectionist, nor a free trader, but a balanced trader.
Having said that, I have not been a supporter of so-called free trade agreements in the past. I have been very skeptical of the free trade agreements-FTAs-our country has signed due to the detrimental impact that I believe they've had on our economy, especially the manufacturing industry. Most of the trade agreements we have signed since I have been involved in politics under both Democrat and Republican leadership have put American workers at an unfair disadvantage because they have encouraged trade with countries that have no labor standards, lack environmental and intellectual property laws, and violate agreements under the WTO.
Free trade only works when both countries play fairly. That is why I can support the U.S.-Australian Free Trade Agreement-USAFTA. Australia is a country that holds true to their word and will live up to their commitments in the agreement. Australia lives by the same rules of law that we as Americans live by. By maintaining an equivalent cost of production and standard of living to that of the United States, the USAFTA will improve the competitive advantages of both countries without encouraging the displacement of hard-working Americans.
I am extremely concerned about the negative impacts that unfair trade agreements have had on the manufacturing industry. South Carolina, particularly the textile industry, has been decimated by unfair trade, first with NAFTA and now with the People's Republic of China. We have lost thousands of jobs at home. In the last six years, nearly 230,000 U.S. textile jobs have been lost. Since 1997, the U.S. textile industry has closed more than 250 textile plants in the country. These mass layoffs and plant closings are a direct result of unfairly traded imports, especially from China. China's access to the U.S. textile and apparel market more than doubled in 2002, growing 117 percent and grew an additional 114 percent in 2003, according to the American Textile Manufacturers Institute.
During the negotiations on the Australian Free Trade Agreement, the Bush Administration negotiated a good deal for the textile industry and I appreciate their efforts in this regard. The USAFTA contains a strict yarn-forward rule of origin with no loopholes, exceptions, or carveouts. Therefore, the benefits of the USAFTA are limited to the participating countries only, effectively denying China the loophole through which they annually transship billions of dollars of manufacturing goods into this country. This is the first FTA to contain such a strict yarn-forward rule of origin and I hope that it is the first of many.
While I recognize the need to examine the problems with our current trade agreements, I support the USAFTA because I feel it has the opportunity to serve as a model for future FTAs. Furthermore, the implementation of the USAFTA will further strengthen the U.S. relationship with Australia, one of our most important and reliable strategic partners.