In the House Committee on Ways and Means today, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-8) voted against pending free trade agreements (FTA's) with the nations of Colombia and South Korea, while supporting the pending FTA with Panama.
"For the past 30 years, the United States has operated under the assumption that any trade deal is a good one. And for the past 30 years we have watched as millions of manufacturing jobs left our shores, especially following the passage of NAFTA and PNTR with China," stated Rep. Pascrell, a long-time champion of fair international trade policies.
"While House Democrats made significant changes in these deals to require these countries to comply with international labor and environmental standards, I have made it clear that I would consider each trade agreement individually on its own merits. Frankly, instead of focusing our efforts on these FTAs, we should be focusing on bipartisan trade policy that will have a significant impact on jobs, like the China Currency Bill. America right now has a jobs crisis, and we need to focus on passing the best trade legislation we can that will create jobs in the country. And that is the China Currency Bill that the Senate will pass later this week, which reports suggest would create over one million jobs."
COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT
"Ensuring that our trading partners adopt robust and broad labor standards has long been a goal of mine in order to craft a trade policy that is fair for both American and foreign workers. Unfortunately, despite the increased labor protections insisted upon by Democrats and a Labor Action Plan negotiated by the Obama Administration, violence in Columbia against labor leaders remains widespread and unacceptable. At a bare minimum, this FTA should not enter into force until Columbia has satisfied all provisions of the Labor Action Plan. Our trade policy should reflect our values, and unfortunately this proposed agreement before us fails to do so."
According to Human Rights Watch, Colombian authorities have obtained just six convictions from 195 union murders that occurred between January 2007 and May 2011.
SOUTH KOREA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT
"When the Bush Administration first signed this deal, it was an absolute non-starter. Thanks to changes in labor and environmental standards, as well as the auto provisions last year, it is clear that this agreement is much, much better as a result. Indeed, the agreement contains some provisions, particularly for the financial services and pharmaceutical sections, which will greatly benefit New Jersey industries."
"However, I believe that we must look at this deal as a whole, and in context of our current economic situation. The nonpartisan U.S. International Trade Commission reported on the impact the US-Korea FTA will have on the U.S. employment would be "negligible. America right now has a jobs crisis, and we need to focus on passing the best trade legislation we can that will create jobs in the country. Our workers are not going to take it any more with false promises I remain concerned that the proposed Korea FTA would allow South Korea to export goods to the United States completely duty free, even if the products contained as much as 65 percent foreign content. That means countries like China, Vietnam and Malaysia would have backdoor access to American markets."
PANAMA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT
"Panama is currently the source of the largest trade surplus we have with any Western Hemisphere country, one that is expected to increase as a result of this proposed agreement. Panama has addressed its former status as a "tax haven,' as well as made significant changes to its labor laws to bring them up to international standards. This is a deal that while not perfect, is a step in the right direction towards a more fair and just American trade policy."