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Panel I of a Hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee-U.S. Morocco Free Trade Agreement

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


Federal News Service

July 7, 2004 Wednesday

HEADLINE: PANEL I OF A HEARING OF THE HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE

SUBJECT: U.S.-MOROCCO FREE TRADE AGREEMENT

CHAIRED BY: REPRESENTATIVE WILLIAM THOMAS (R-CA)

WITNESS: PETER ALLGEIER, DEPUTY U.S. TRADE REPRESENTATIVE LOCATION: 1100 LONGWORTH HOUSE OFFICE BUILDING, WASHINGTON, D.C.

BODY:

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REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI): I do. Thank you, Chairman.

I just wanted to get through a couple of things. First of all, since my home state of Wisconsin is one of the leading exporters to Morocco, I think this is a big win for Wisconsin, especially what the gentleman from Illinois said-corn, soybeans, manufacturing products. Those are the big exports that we have, and the fact that these tariffs are coming down at such a great level so quickly is very good.

But there's an untold story here that I worry is not getting told, and that is the labor reforms that have occurred as a result of this trade agreement. Now is it not true that Morocco was dealing with trying to pass labor reforms for about 20 years and just could not get off the ground? Is that not the case?

MR. ALLGEIER: That's accurate.

REP. RYAN: And so when this trade agreement came about, did it not bring forward a whole new labor reform law that, if I'm correct, dealt with combatting child labor, reduced the work week from 48 to 44 hours, with overtime rates payable for additional hours? Did it not call for periodic reviews of the minimum wage? Which is increasing by 10 percent in July, just a few days ago.

Does it deal with worker safety and health laws, gender equity in the workplace? Does it promote employment for the disabled? Does it guarantee rights of association and guarantee collective bargaining? And does it prohibit employers from taking actions against workers because they are union members? And does it also guarantee the right to strike?

MR. ALLGEIER: Yes. All of those elements that you identified are part of the labor code reform that is now in effect.

REP. RYAN: And that's a new reform code that came largely because of this new free trade agreement with Morocco.

MR. ALLGEIER: Yes. They were stuck for nearly 20 years. And they do this through a tripartite arrangement of government, business and labor. And they succeeded, frankly, we think, with the help and incentive of this agreement to pass and put into place the labor reform that you just described.

REP. THOMAS: Will the gentleman yield briefly?

REP. RYAN: Yes.

REP. THOMAS: To make sure the record is completely accurate, my understanding is that the recent codification does not include the right to strike. That is a guarantee in the constitution but is not included in the recent codification. Is that correct or not?

MR. ALLGEIER: It is correct that it is in the constitution. But what the new labor code did was strengthen the right to strike, for example, by prohibiting the hiring of substitute workers, prohibiting --

REP. THOMAS: Good.

MR. ALLGEIER: -- other practices.

REP. THOMAS: Excellent. Thank you.

REP. RYAN: What I think is important to note here is that as we go to fulfilling the vision of AMFTA (sp) for North Africa and for the Middle East, that what we are accomplishing is bringing these developing countries into the first world, bringing up their labor and environmental standards, bringing up their transparency, bringing up the protection of intellectual property. This is not only good for America and for American jobs and consumers and for our exporters, but this is good for our relationships that are so important with this part of the world. So I just want to commend you for that.

And I just hope that this story of how this agreement was catalyst to rising labor standards, to improving trade and opening up new markets for our products is a story that does not go untold.

And with that, I just want to yield. Thank you.

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