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Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agrement Implementation Act

Location: Washington DC



Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in opposition to the Central American Free Trade Agreement and encourage my colleagues to join me in opposing its ratification. Trade agreements of this magnitude must not be entered into lightly, and their impact must be investigated thoroughly.

I have studied this issue in great detail, Mr. Speaker. Over the last several months, I have heard from a great number of my constituents; some support the agreement and believe that it will have significant economic and social benefits for the United States, others oppose this agreement because they are concerned that the environmental and labor costs are too great.

I oppose the ratification of CAFTA because it does not adequately protect American interests, ensure that our trading partners will protect our shared environment, provide protection for the rights of workers, or join us in our fight to ensure intellectual property protections.

Mr. Speaker, a globalized economy in which goods and services move with relative ease across national borders is a fact of life in the 21st Century. As New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has said, ``Globalization is not a phenomenon. It is not just some passing trend. Today it is an overarching international system shaping the domestic politics and foreign relations of virtually every country, and we need to understand it as such.''

I support trade that is free and fair. And in fact, I have supported each of the individual trade agreements that have come before me. However, to be free and fair a trading regime must ensure that American workers are not competing with nations whose labor and environmental standards guarantee that we cannot compete, and where the intellectual capital of our people is stolen at will. And we must have an Administration that is willing to use all the force of its office to enforce the standards which are set. The dynamism of the American economy, the quality and dedication of American workers, and the constant renewal of American society through immigration have left us in a unique position to thrive in this new economic world. The challenges for the United States are how to draft good trade agreements, enforce their terms, prepare our work force to deal with globalization, and ensure that our workers have the opportunity to fairly compete.

Regrettably, I lack confidence in the Bush administration's willingness to fight for a level playing field on behalf of American workers. For this reason and because I believe that Congress should play a role in shaping trade agreements, I opposed passage of ``Trade Promotion Authority'' in 2002. I do not believe that we should be forced to accept a flawed deal, or reject a good deal that has some shortcomings. Nor can we accept half-hearted efforts to enforce labor, environmental or intellectual property provisions--or, as is too often the case, no effort at all.

Mr. Speaker, one area of particular concern to my constituents is the lack of adequate protection for American intellectual property. One of our greatest exports is in the area of creative content and intellectual property. In fact, this has been the only area in which we have had a positive balance of trade with every nation on earth; China is now the only exception. This incredible creative reservoir is derived from the hard work of song writers, technicians, artists, programmers, software makers, musicians, filmmakers and scores of others who make their living from the lawful sale of these items. It is critical that these resources are protected, and the Administration has not adequately sought to put in place or enforce the protections necessary to shield America's creators from intellectual property theft.

I have reviewed the CAFTA agreement that was signed on May 28, 2004, and I have listened to concerns over labor, environmental, and intellectual property issues that have been expressed by my constituents and others. I have also listened to those, including former President Jimmy Carter, who support the agreement, and argue that it will create jobs here and expand democracy and opportunity for our Central American neighbors. Ultimately, however, I am not convinced that CAFTA is a mutually beneficial agreement that protects our hemisphere's workers, environment, and intellectual property, and particularly so when the Administration has such a lackluster record on enforcement.

I ask my colleagues to join me today in opposing the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Mr. Speaker, it is possible to work with our Central American neighbors to develop stronger trade ties, collectively protect workers and our environment, spur economic development throughout the trade cooperative, and enter into an agreement that benefits all interested parties. Unfortunately, CAFTA falls short in all of these areas.

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