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The Economy

Location: Washington, DC

THE ECONOMY -- (House of Representatives - March 05, 2007)


Ms. KAPTUR. Congressman Michaud, Congresswoman Sutton and Congressman Braley, I wanted to come to the floor tonight and say it is so wonderful to have you here in this beloved House, to try to course correct on a direction that the United States has been heading in the wrong direction now for over two decades. And with the new energy that you represent and the new leadership, I have no doubt that when fast track comes up for reauthorization later this year, we are going to stop it dead in its tracks and begin turning our country around again.

I just wanted to run to the floor just for a couple of minutes to put some notes in the Record and to say that for 23 years Congress has really doled out to the executive branch our trade-making authority under Article I, section 8.

If you go back to 1975 when fast track was first passed, the United States had trade balances up until then for almost the entirety of our history. Then as you look at each succeeding agreement, whether you go to 1993 and NAFTA, we were already amassing trade deficits after the first fast track was passed back in the seventies.

Then when PNTR with China was passed, plus NAFTA, plus all the other agreements that were signed, we moved into the most historic deficits represented by the lost jobs that Congresswoman Sutton talked about, that Congressman Braley talked about, Congressman Michaud you talked about and personally lived through.

So we have seen real wages stagnant with those jobs lost. We have seen our jobs move overseas to the lowest-wage countries in the world, the most undemocratic. We have seen child labor flourish. We have seen bonded labor come back into our country as a result. We have global warming taking hold as our environmental regulations are really overturned under agreements like NAFTA. Illegal immigrants stream across our borders because they are treated like they have no value in their home countries. Our trade deficit continues to soar, and the drug trade locks in heavily.

So I wanted to come down tonight and present some of these figures and say that there is a pattern to history now. You are like the second wave. You are coming in here. Those of us who fought so hard against NAFTA in 1993, those of us who tried so hard to course-correct, we never had the votes. Unfortunately, it was so close; it was so very close. But people hadn't lived the washout. You now represent places that have experienced the results of this.

So we look forward to this coming vote this summer. It is such a joy to have you here, and I just wanted to thank you for your really determined leadership and for the people who voted you here so that you could come to Washington and make a difference. We so very, very much need your voices here.

When Fast Track expires at the end of June this year, Congress can reclaim our authority granted by Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution ``to regulate commerce with foreign nations.' For 23 years, Congress and the working class watched the executive branch commandeer U.S. trade policy. We also saw real wages stagnate, American jobs move overseas, child labor flourish, global warming take hold, illegal immigrants stream across our borders, our trade deficit soar, and the drug trade thrive.

Like many of us here, I receive thousands of letters, phone calls, and e-mails from my constituents asking me to take action on these important issues.

While there is no one cause for any of these problems, Congress cannot ignore how U.S. trade policy impacts the full range of issues affecting Americans and the world. Congress must respond to the American people who demand action from us.

Congress has yielded enough power to the executive branch. If we renew Fast Track and continue to cede our Constitutionally-granted authority, we will only render ourselves more helpless in the face of a broken immigration system, economic instability, an environmental crisis, and a burgeoning drug trade.

Our previous trade agreements may not have been the sole causes of these emergencies, but trade policy is the key to solving them.

Congress needs to examine the root causes of our immigration problem and the exploitation of workers across the Americas. When the leaders of U.S., Mexico, and Canada signed NAFTA 14 years ago, they turned their backs on working men and women across the continent. The agreement continues to chip away at the U.S. economy, leaving millions jobless and accumulating a staggering and growing trade deficit with Mexico, now totaling a record $64.1 billion for 2006. At the same time, NAFTA ravaged the Mexican economy and destroyed the farming and agricultural sectors. This so-called ``free trade' agreement has prompted hundreds of thousands of Mexicans to look for an escape from their worsening destitute circumstances to the U.S., and in doing so they risk their lives, the unity of their families and their futures.

U.S. trade policy upsets more than just our immigration crisis. Our faltering trade policy has also contributed to the global environmental emergency. When the Bush Administration entered into CAFTA, they did so with countries which rarely enforce their already limited environmental policies. Many of my constituents have already contacted me about the devastating environmental consequences of the Peru Free Trade Agreement. How can Congress fight global warming in the U.S. while allowing our trade rivals to destroy the rain forests and retain lax emissions standards? We must use trade as a tool to protect the environment, not to pillage it.

Lopsided flawed trade agreements weaken our economy. Since NAFTA's passage, over one million U.S. jobs were sucked into Mexico. Because of PNTR, more than 1.5 million jobs shipped out to China. After two centuries of trade surpluses, NAFTA ushered in an era of soaring trade deficits, even after proponents promised us bigger surpluses.

More recently, President Bush's trade policy in particular has caused more damage to our trade accounts. The trade deficit has climbed to record numbers each year since he took office in 2001. From $362 billion his first year to a whopping $763.6 billion last year, this President has been selling the U.S. to the highest foreign bidders.

Our constituents are calling Congress to action. Without the authority to regulate commerce with foreign nations, Congress cannot effectively respond to these crises.

Congress must stand for free trade among free people, and ensure that all Americans have access to middle class jobs at middle class wages with health and retirement benefits that cannot be rescinded. We must oppose Fast Track, reclaim our negotiating authority from the executive branch, and answer the pleas of the American people.


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