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United States-Oman Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act

Location: Washington, DC



Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Maryland for yielding and for his just relentless championing of the rights of American workers. Who are we here for, after all?

Mr. Cardin has been a supporter of free trade agreements for a long time, and that doesn't mean that you can't do that and also be here to be the voice of American workers. If any of them tune in and listen to this debate on the floor, they know clearly who speaks for them. Thank you, Mr. Cardin, for championing this issue.

Thank you, Mr. Rangel, for your incredible leadership, time and time again to say, yes, we are open, we understand the benefits of free and fair trade. We want them, though, to emphasize the fairness of it to American workers.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to the Oman Free Trade Agreement, and it is with the greatest respect for the gentleman from Virginia that I respectfully disagree with his comments. And as Mr. Cardin has said, the Sultan, with all due respect to the Sultan, his decree has not done what we need to have done in this trade agreement.

Democrats realize that our economic future rests upon our ability to open new markets for U.S. goods and services so that we can continue to capitalize upon the innovative spirit that has long distinguished America. New markets translate into new, high-paying jobs and opportunities for American workers, businesses, and farmers.

In the past, trade policy has been a bipartisan endeavor, a common effort to expand opportunity for America's businesses, again workers and farmers. Unfortunately, the Bush administration has veered in the opposite direction, and so has the Republican leadership in this Congress, and a bipartisan agenda has now become a lofty goal rather than an indisputable reality, which it should be. The Bush administration has failed to enforce fundamental worker rights and failed to open large markets for U.S. goods. Once again America's middle class is paying the price for misplaced Republican priorities.

In addition to that failure, in terms of the global economy, this administration and the Republicans in Congress support incentives to businesses to take jobs offshore. How is that a good idea for America's workers? We are going to engage in these trade agreements that do not have core labor principles in them that lift the standards of the workers in the country; for example, Oman; or, of course, lift the living standard of American workers here, which is our primary responsibility.

And at the same time, these same people who brought you these free trade agreements which do not enforce core labor principles and are unfair to American workers, these same people advocate incentives for companies to take jobs offshore. That is why on the first day of Congress, Mr. Rangel will come to the floor, God willing, if the Democrats take power, he will come to the floor on the first day and repeal those incentives to companies to take jobs offshore. One small step for American workers.

Democrats have a long history of supporting free and fair trade. Enforceable labor rights that follow basic core principles are a crucial part of ensuring that American companies and workers will not be disadvantaged by unfair competition from countries that do not adhere to the core standards.

Core ILO, International Labor Organization, standards ensure that our trading partners abide by the most fundamental standards of common decency and fairness. Not only are core labor rights a matter of decency and fairness, but they are also in our national economic interest. Basic enforceable, with the emphasis on enforceable, labor protections are critical to building a strong middle class in Oman, raising the disposable incomes so that they can buy American products.

Our trade deficit is likely to exceed last year's recordbreaking deficit of $717 billion. Every day we have $2 billion more in goods coming into the country than going out. This is unbelievable. Over $2 billion more a day in goods and services coming in than going out. I do not know what is free and fair about that. I do know America's middle class is paying the price.

The Republican trade agenda has failed to break new ground by opening large markets for U.S. goods. Instead, they have these little tiny agreements that establish a precedent and erode core labor principles, and they have not opened the large markets that are crucial to creating new jobs for American workers.

Despite a record trade deficit, the Bush administration has focused on negotiating trade agreements with countries where the opportunities for U.S. companies are limited.

The Oman Free Trade Agreement will have negligible impact on our balance of trade, and that is why it can wait. It is just not a big deal. It can wait until these core principles are in the treaty and not just by decree, which they are not, but if they were, could be changed tomorrow. This year U.S. trade with Oman will be about $1 billion, just .04 percent of the total U.S. trade.

Democrats recognize the importance of engaging Oman, but we must do much more in terms of fairness. Democrats are committed to addressing the challenges of increasingly competitive global markets. Our success depends on our ability to innovate new products and to create new markets, new markets, overseas for those goods and services. That is why Democrats have put forth our innovation agenda, our commitment to competitiveness to keep America number one. We will secure America's continued leadership and innovation and unleash the next generation of discovery, invention, and growth. And in that way, we will be preeminent in the world's markets; but not, but not, if our hands are tied by the precedent established by these little agreements.

Again, in addition to our innovation agenda and fairness to American workers, businesses and farmers, on that very first day, in addition to raising the minimum wage, Mr. Rangel will call for the repeal of incentives of jobs to go overseas.

Just think of it. If you are a middle-income person in middle America, our technological base, our manufacturing base, our industrial base in those parts of the country are eroding. Jobs and services are going overseas with the help of tax incentives of this Republican administration and this Republican Congress, and then we engage in free trade agreements that do not even pay the respect due to American workers to have core labor principles, a minimal standard, the ILO standard. A minimal standard. This is not anything big.

And by the way, we are not asking for anything different for labor, for America's workers. This is not special treatment. What Democrats are asking for is the same thing that the Bush administration is giving to other industries: the right to enforce the provisions. Businesses have that right in the

deal, but workers do not. It is just not fair. It is just not fair.

So we want to take our country in a new direction, passing free trade agreements that do expand our markets, spur economic growth, raise the living standard of the United States and abroad, and have enforceable provisions that are fair to American workers.

Unfortunately, this trade agreement fails on all of these counts, and that is why I ask my colleagues to vote ``no.''


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