DR-CAFTA -- (Extensions of Remarks - June 24, 2005)
HON. RUSH D. HOLT
OF NEW JERSEY
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
FRIDAY, JUNE 24, 2005
Mr. HOLT. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my opposition to the proposed US-Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA).
Former U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick led the team of U.S. negotiators who concluded what they consider to be a good trade agreement in DR-CAFTA, and President Bush signed it the summer of 2004. This agreement will not take effect, however, until it is formally submitted to the Congress for a straight up-or-down vote, pursuant to the fast-track trade negotiating authority that Congress approved in 2002.
Fast-track trade negotiating authority was first approved by Congress when the Trade Act of 1964 was enacted. As a result the Congress cedes much of its power to amend trade agreements negotiated by the President.
I voted against giving the President a 5-year extension of fast-track trade negotiating authority in 2002. Fundamentally, I believe Congress ought not cede such open-ended, blanket trade negotiating authority to any President. Nevertheless, the DR-CAFTA agreement has been negotiated by the President's representatives and will come before Congress.
International trade is not just inevitable, it is a good thing. But lowering the cost of goods and increasing their availabilitly is not the single goal of trade. Trade done right helps lift the global standard of living and works to protect the irreplaceable environment we inherited. Trade is about values. Trade agreements are not just about goods and commodities; they are also about what constitutes acceptable behavior in environmental matters, worker's rights, intellectual property, and so forth. We should make sure we export the goods we produce and not the workers who produce them.
Each new trade agreement entered into by the U.S. should be very closely scrutinized. Each ought to include the strongest enforceable worker rights and environmental safeguards attainable, like those included in the U.S.-Jordan agreement of 2000. Each should also include enforceable rules to protect intellectual property rights and guarantee access for U.S.-based corporations to foreign markets. This can be achieved in trade agreements if we enter negotiations with clear principles.
I voted against the Chile and Singapore trade agreements, for example, because the inadequate labor and environmental provisions included in them, in my estimation, failed to meet the negotiating objectives that Congress carefully spelled out in the 2002 law extending fast-track negotiating authority to the President. They did not provide, for example, that trade dispute settlement mechanisms within those free trade agreements afford equivalent treatment to trade-related labor and environmental protection as intellectual property rights and capital subsidies, and the impending DR-CAFTA fails in this regard, too. The agreement between the US and Jordan, on the other hand, is a fine example that good agreements are achievable.
I am troubled by the DR-CAFTA that the President has signed. The DR-CAFTA does not contain strong, enforceable provisions to protect internationally-recognized worker rights. Nor does it have any provisions for environmental safeguards. Such provisions are critical because they both preserve existing labor laws and environmental standards in the affected countries, and because they ensure that American companies will be competing on a more level playing field with our Central American neighbors. Without such provisions, U.S. companies and employees are forced to compete with countries that have no labor wage, working conditions, or environmental protections. The people of all countries lose in such a "race to the bottom."
Mr. Speaker, I will vote against the DR-CAFTA when it comes to the floor of the House and I urge my colleagues to do the same.