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

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. KIND. Mr. Speaker, as our nation leads the world into the 21st century, we should not shy away from opportunities to guide and expand global trade. Lowering tariffs and advancing economic engagement among nations not only helps the American economy, it also can provide real opportunity to those in the developing world who are working to eradicate poverty, build their nations and bring prosperity to their people.

It is critical that we build a bipartisan consensus around the importance of trade, which, unfortunately, does not currently exist. Such a consensus requires that trade agreements be balanced and fair for American workers and companies as well as for the nations with which we seek to engage. It also requires that domestic priorities be put in place to assist Americans in transitioning to the global economy.

While I have supported previous free trade agreements, it is with regret that I oppose H.R. 3045, legislation implementing the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) between the United States, the Dominican Republic and five Central American nations: Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, EI Salvador and Guatemala. DR-CAFTA does not build the bipartisan consensus we must achieve to succeed in the emerging global economy.

When increasing opportunities through trade, we must be sure to do more to empower the American workforce through a comprehensive and upgraded education and worker training policy. The single most important factor in determining America's success in the 21st Century will be maintaining our innovation and creativity.

Over the last few years, the world has become a smaller and more integrated place with technology, which levels the playing field like never before. Greater competition and collaboration exist now between countries, companies, and individuals. Meeting this challenge requires a new set of big ideas. Instead of this Administration being so eager to dismantle the new deal, it should be working with Congress to offer the American people a new "New Deal."

This new "New Deal" should provide working families with the skills to compete successfully in the 21st Century economy. We must renew our commitment to worker training programs, an education investment that emphasizes math, science and engineering, research funding in science and medicine, and a comprehensive broad-band strategy for all America.

Unfortunately, DR-CAFTA fails on a number of fronts. While the Administration has aggressively negotiated intellectual property and investor rights provisions in the agreement, it has simply not taken the same approach to protect workers' rights abroad or address the needs of working families here at home.

DR-CAFTA does not require nations to bring their laws into compliance with the International Labor Organization (ILO) core labor standards, even though the ILO and U.S. State Department have documented numerous areas where the CAFTA countries' laws fail to comply with even the most basic international norms. Further, the agreement lacks critical dispute settlement and enforcement mechanisms for worker rights provisions beyond a normal fine for countries that fail to enforce their own current labor laws. Even this minimal standard is flawed, as DR-CAFTA does not require countries to maintain their current labor laws.

In addition to the inadequate labor provisions in the trade agreement, the Administration has done nothing to prepare hard-working American families for the consequences of increased trade. Rather, the Administration and Congressional Leadership have provided irresponsible tax cuts benefiting the wealthiest one percent of Americans at the expense of investing in education, skills training, and research and development.

Mr. Speaker, economics and trade need not be a zero-sum game; it can be a win-win for everyone involved as long as people have the tools to succeed. I cannot in good faith support an incomplete trade and economic policy that leaves Americans less able to be creative and innovative.


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