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Public Statements

The Economy

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

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


Mr. ALTMIRE. I would like to thank the gentleman from Maine for his leadership on this issue. This is a critical issue.

And you mentioned a lot of us are freshmen, like the gentleman from Iowa, who are just coming off the campaign trail from a few months back. And I come from a district in western Pennsylvania, just north of Pittsburgh, and I have six counties going along, three of them go along the Ohio line, and the other ones go just north of Pittsburgh. And I would think you would be hard pressed to find a district in this country that has seen more damage done by the global marketplace than Pittsburgh over the past 30 or 40 years, and more recently over the past dozen or 15 years since NAFTA was passed in 1993.

And just for some historical perspective for what I am going to talk about, and I know you have mentioned it already, the country as a whole lost three million manufacturing jobs since NAFTA was agreed to in 1993. And that is one out of every six manufacturing jobs that existed in this country at that time. I don't think we can draw any other conclusion but that that was not beneficial to this country and had the effect of job loss. I mean, it is self-evident.

Now, manufacturing jobs are disappearing in Pennsylvania as well. We can trace about 100,000 jobs lost in Pennsylvania as a direct result of NAFTA. And of course when you get into indirect result, that number is much higher.

Now, there has been a loss of 210,000 manufacturing jobs total, 24 percent decrease in the State of Pennsylvania over just the past 6 years. That is total. That is not just NAFTA. That is all these trade agreements. So we have lost a quarter of our manufacturing jobs in just the past 6 years.

Now, in my district just last week, this has unfortunate significance that just last week we lost 85 workers from Wheatland Tube, a large manufacturing plant in my district; 85 workers were released on February 26. And this is just the latest in a series of downsizing that has taken place there.

And I would put in a mention of Congressman Tim Ryan from Youngstown, who is very involved in this issue as well. And he came over to Wheatland Tube with me during the campaign, and we met with some of the workers and the leadership there at that time, and they expressed their concerns about China and their inability to compete in a fair way with what is happening in China. And here we see only a few months later that 85 workers have now lost their jobs as a result of what is happening.

And I would mention this quote from the vice president from Wheatland Tube last week. He said, ``We are not seeing relief from Chinese imports, and we are not going to sit around and wait for that relief. We need to right-size the company.'' And this is just one example.

Again, I have six counties in western Pennsylvania, and we are seeing this certainly all over the district and all over western Pennsylvania. But right there at Wheatland Tube, unfortunately, it hit home just last week.

Now, the onslaught of foreign subsidized goods that are illegally dumped in the U.S. is just one of the many problems that we are seeing that has not been addressed by this administration. And certainly these trade agreements are doing nothing about this. And the administration that has put forward CAFTA and some of the other more recent trade agreements continues down the same path.

And I can tell you that, with the possible exception of health care, there was no issue over the 18 months I spent on the campaign trail that came up more often and was of greater concern than these trade agreements in western Pennsylvania. So the American people have spoken on this issue. I can tell you, for sure, they spoke in my district, and I know they spoke in Mr. Braley's district. And we are going to hear from Congresswoman Sutton later and Mr. Ellison as well.

I think this is an issue whose time has come. It cannot be ignored any longer. These trade agreements have been detrimental to America. And none of us are saying we should bury our heads in the sand and ignore the global marketplace. What we are saying, as Mr. Hare eloquently put it earlier, is that we need to have trade agreements that represent fair trade. And fair trade means having the trading partner make some effort, at least an effort, to come into compliance with environmental laws, with workers' rights, certainly child labor laws. These are things that have been completely left out of these trade agreements. So we find ourselves just giving away the store and shipping those jobs overseas, as Dr. Kagen's chart so eloquently illustrated.


Mr. ALTMIRE. Well, in a word, it has been devastating, and we have seen the results. I talked about Wheatland Tube. I grew up about 100 miles from that plant, in a river town that was across from a big Allegheny Ludlam plant, which is where all the families worked. If you lived in that town, that is where you worked. And, unfortunately, things have not gone so well over the past couple of decades, both at that plant and another Allegheny Ludlam plant that I have in my district, and much of it has to do with these foreign trade issues. And as a result, now, when you travel through these communities, they used to be so vibrant and had a downtown that you could go through and it was hustle and bustle and there was activity. A lot of them now are ghost towns because we have seen the impact and the job loss that has resulted from the downfall of the steel industry 20 and 30 years ago, but more recently, the other heavy manufacturing that has been shipped overseas.

So it has been devastating to these communities, and you would only need to take one drive through much of my district to see the impact, because you can see the remnants of some of those plants. In many cases, they have been razed, and it is a brownfield site. But you can see the difference, and you can imagine what it used to be like 30 and 40 years ago and, in many cases, more recently.

I was just going to wrap up my portion by talking about what is coming next before us. And, again, none of us oppose the idea of trade. Fair trade is beneficial to both parties by definition. That is what we are talking about. But as the administration puts forward the Peruvian Trade Agreement, Colombia, Panama, and certainly fast track renewal, which the gentleman from Maine was talking about, we need to consider the fact that Congress, Representatives of the people, need to play an active role in these trade agreements. And, unfortunately, that has not been the case, which is why we have ended up with such one-sided agreement. So, as we consider those issues with Peru and Colombia and Panama and Presidential fast-track authority, I for one am going to support the working Americans of this country for fair trade practices.


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