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Public Statements

United States-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. PINGREE of Maine. I thank my colleague and friend from Ohio for yielding me this time.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in opposition to the proposed trade agreement. The Panama free trade agreement is structured exactly like NAFTA, a trade policy that resulted in the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs all over America. In Maine alone, we have lost 31,000 manufacturing jobs since NAFTA was ratified in 1994. In addition to manufacturing jobs, it has hurt our agricultural and fishing sectors, and has had a huge impact on the economy of our State.

I have a perfect example. Steve White of Brewer, Maine, comes to mind. He worked in a factory for 22 years, making components that were used by GM, Ford, and Chrysler. Now those parts are being made in Mexico. Steve wrote this in the Bangor Daily News:

``We were given the opportunity, if we wished, to travel to Mexico and further train our replacements. My coworkers who went said that the conditions for the Mexican workers were very poor and far below the American standard. The pay rate was very low, and they would work long hours every day of the week.''

Here we are today, voting on three more trade agreements that could have the same devastating consequences for American jobs. Why would we do this at a time when we desperately need these jobs right here in the United States?

This week, in addition to the three free trade agreements, we will also vote on the extension of Trade Adjustment Assistance, a program that was created for those adversely affected by trade agreements. For several years and for probably many more, we have and will spend millions of dollars retraining people who have been put out of work by misguided trade agreements.

And for what? So that big companies can get a better deal on cheap labor and loose environmental standards in other countries?

What our workers want today, what the people in my State, the State of Maine, want are jobs, not readjustment assistance, not retraining, not some idea of another job to come in the future. They want a job today. They don't want these trade agreements, and they don't want to lose any more jobs in our State.

Mr. Speaker, America has a long history of supporting our hardworking families, but this policy does not invest in our workforce. It is not what is right for America's future, and I cannot support it.

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