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Pascrell Outraged at House Passage of Destructive Central America Free Trade Bill

Location: Washington, DC

July 21, 2005


WASHINGTON- U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-08) today took strong exception to the passage of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). H.R. 3045 passed after midnight by vote of 217-215, due in part to the fig leaf China trade bill that was passed earlier in the day. CAFTA has already passed in the Senate. CAFTA will not only remove trade barriers between the United States and the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala, but will undermine labor rights, weaken environmental protections, and threaten the sovereignty of the United States.

Hours before passage of CAFTA, the House passed H.R. 3283, a bill that inadequately addresses Chinese trade practices and unfair government subsidies to manufactuers.

Pascrell stated, "The China trade bill was not designed to address abusive Chinese trade practices. It was a bill to embolden Members of Congress to vote in favor of CAFTA, and have the ability to return home yelling, "China!" when they face a disappointed constituency of manufacturers and workers.

CAFTA supporters tout the consumer import market that would open to American exports. They fail to mention the risks associated with the six CAFTA countries that combined have a purchasing power equal to a city as small as New Haven, Connecticut.

"Passage of this CAFTA agreement is a disgrace. It is a give away to multinational corporations, an exploitation of our weakest global communities, a burden on our struggling manufacturers, and harmful to the environment.

While the House of Representatives has not learned anything from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the American workers have felt its ill-effects all too well. They have learned the hard way. Americans workers have learned on unemployment lines, and on welfare roles. They have learned in the real estate market when they cannot afford to heat their homes or pay their mortgage or their property taxes. They have learned it.

CAFTA is a re-run of the NAFTA, and all of its proven shortfalls. America has lost over 2.5 million manufacturing jobs since entering into NAFTA, including 130,000 in our Garden State. A random sampling of 288 small manufacturers in New Jersey completed yesterday found that 81 expect to cut jobs due to CAFTA, while only 13 would be impacted positively.

Passage of this trade policy reveals an alarming disconnect between Congress and American people. It is not by chance that this legislation was handled in the 11th hour before Congress returns home for the summer to spend more time hearing out our constituents needs.

I am aware that we live in a global community. That is one reason why I opposed this fatally flawed initiative. We must embrace our global marketplace, but we must open it to fair trade, not free trade. We must use the power of our marketplace to raise standards in the nations we trade with. This investment deal merely serves to empower big multinational business and an elite Central American ruling class that will further exploit the most vulnerable people.

Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution gives the Congress the power to address foreign commerce. This bill ignores the Constitution in a disgraceful way. Yesterday was a sad day to serve in Congress."

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