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United States-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, first I thank you for your words regarding what we need to be doing on trade and what has happened regarding unfettered trade. Coming from the great State of Michigan, the manufacturing hub of this country and of the world over decades and decades, I could not agree more with what is happening in terms of jobs going overseas. I see it in the eyes of thousands, in fact, hundreds of thousands of people; 250,000 people in my State who have lost their jobs just since this President has taken office, people working hard every day who just want to make a living for their kids and know the pension they paid into is going to be there and health care and that they can send their kids to college and have all the things they wanted for their children, have the great American dream. They have watched that dream slip away for themselves and their families.

I thank you for your words.

I go another step in terms of what I think we need to be doing to support manufacturing here and a level playing field because, in addition to what has been said about Peru as one more trade agreement--and I agree with that statement, ``one more trade agreement''--that is on the books without other provisions in place, there are certainly things that we can and need to be doing to support and encourage those manufacturing jobs in America.

As I noted in the Finance Committee, as a member of the Finance Committee, the Peru free-trade agreement is a tough one for me in a sense that I know colleagues have worked very hard to bring in new language. My friend and colleague in the House, Congressman Rangel, and Senator Levin, certainly our chairman of the Finance Committee and the ranking member, have been working to have this agreement reflect our country's values when it comes to labor and environmental standards.

The truth is, I wish we had had these kinds of standards in previous agreements. Getting the right words on paper is important, but unfortunately it is not enough to get them on paper. They are on paper in these agreements, but that is not enough when it comes to the families of my State and the people of America who want to make sure the American dream is available to them and their families.

I would like to believe these words will translate into action. It is hard to be convinced we are going to enforce our trade laws when we just start from the basis that we have the smallest trade enforcement office of any industrialized country in the world. That gives an indication of the priority of enforcing trade laws compared to what is happening in other countries.

We have more than 230 trade agreements on the books to enforce, and we have the smallest trade enforcement agency of any country in the industrialized world. It should be no surprise that there has been a huge increase in dangerous products coming across our borders and that more and more countries are testing the resolve of our trade laws and are, in fact, cheating on those trade laws.

The administration has simply lost credibility with the American people. No one believes this administration will enforce current trade agreements. No one believes currency manipulation will stop and certainly that the administration will take any action. This is something I have been focused on now since coming to the Senate, and every year--every 6 months, in fact--we get a report from the Treasury Secretary: No action. Currency manipulation is not really happening or they don't mean it or they will do better in China if we trust them, and more and more jobs are going overseas because of that trade policy.

No one believes unsafe imported products will be kept away from our children. No one believes at this time that this agreement will end up leveling the playing field on trade. No one believes that point because, unfortunately, based on past actions, it is not true. We have too many businesses that have faced patent violations and unfair pricing. We have seen small businesses in my State, as well as large, that make a product and have had a Chinese company come in and steal everything about that product, not only the patents, but the packaging, the directions on the package, and make the product for a small fraction of what it cost to actually make it.

I have small businesses in my State that have stopped making products because they cannot afford the cost to fight the Chinese Government to stop the trade infringement.

Those unfortunate incidents have meant people in my State have lost their jobs. I have one small business owner who makes hand trucks used to carry boxes and products, to move them around, who created one type of hand truck. It was stolen and produced by a Chinese company. This person could not afford to take action.

He said to me: Where is my Government stepping in to help me? But he could not afford the $10,000 a month retainer of an attorney to try to figure out how to stop them, so he stopped making the product and 50 people in the northern Michigan town of Cadillac lost their jobs--50 people. For that town, that is a lot of people. In fact, anywhere, if you are 1 of those 50, that is a lot of people.

We have too many dangerous products that have put our families and children in harm's way because foreign countries are not following the rules and our own country does not hold them accountable.

We have too many American families sitting on waiting lists for training that they were promised by this Government, the Federal Government of America, that they would receive if they lost their job because of trade.

We have a whole range of things that are not happening that have been promised.

This is what the people of my State see, and I believe the American people see. They see unsafe products. They see illegal trade practices. They see lost jobs devastating communities, lowering the standard of living, loss of the middle class that has resulted from previous trade agreements that were not enforced and that were not fair. That is what they see.

I simply cannot support another trade agreement until we get this right. I cannot support a trade agreement ahead of enforcing our trade laws, improving product safety, keeping our promises to working Americans, and ensuring a level playing field for businesses and workers, all of which are achievable if we make American businesses and American workers our priority. If we make that our priority, we can make the changes necessary so that trade works for us, rather than having it be a situation where instead of exporting our products, we are exporting our jobs. That is why the right words on paper just are not enough. We have to have the right trade agenda--a trade agenda that helps working families adjust and be able to thrive in a global economy because we are making more products and selling more products and creating more jobs here, one that is based on a sense of credible trade enforcement so other countries know we are serious about jobs and businesses in our country, and one, frankly, that lets other countries know we are serious about protecting our people as it relates to safety, which is also very important.

In 2006, 1 year ago, 37,000 people in Michigan lost their jobs specifically and directly because of trade--37,000--but only 4,100 received any kind of trade adjustment help--training, the ability to go back to school to be able to get some assistance to be able to start a new career. That means 90 percent of the people who were affected, who lost their jobs, are not receiving funds that were promised under trade adjustment assistance because of various caps or the fact that we have not authorized that critical program.

And just extending it is not enough. How do I tell 33,000 people who were told that the Federal Government would help them through this adjustment period, through training and increased investments and new jobs, how do I tell them that, in fact, 90 percent of the people in their same situation got no help whatsoever?

Communities also need assistance. In Michigan, many communities have been devastated by the loss of a large plant or industrial facility. I will give one example, and this is very much about the race to the bottom, Mr. President. You spoke about it, and I speak about it all the time. When Electrolux, which makes refrigerators in Greenville, MI--a city of 8,000 people, with almost 3,000 of those people employed at this one plant--when they decided to pick up and go to Mexico where they could pay $1.57 an hour, with no health benefits, there was a huge effort that came about to be able to work with them to stay. The Governor came in, the mayor came in, and others, saying: We will help you refinance a plant. We will give you tax incentives. Tell us how we can help you to be able to be competitive, to be able to stay in Greenville, MI. I met with them on many occasions, asking: What can we do to partner with you to support you. The end analysis was that the State essentially said no taxes at all. We offered to help them build new plants, and none of it was enough because they said: You can't compete with $1.57 an hour and no health benefits.

So this really is about whether we are going to compete down to a lower standard of living and lose the middle class and lose the American dream, or whether we are going to compete up. I believe if we compete up with a different trade agenda, a different broadly held agenda that will strengthen America, that we, in fact, can keep our jobs. But one piece of that is to make sure that when 2,700-plus people in Greenville, MI, or when a whole community is devastated by their largest employer leaving, that there is some assistance not only for the workers but the small businesses and for others there to help during the transition.

In fact, we need to make sure we have a broader agenda that not only levels the playing field on trade, enforcing trade laws, having the right kind of trade policy, but that we are also addressing health care costs in this country, the largest cost for our businesses, and changing the way we fund health care, getting it off the back of business, and addressing other costs that are noncompetitive that we can address. Then we need to race like crazy on education and innovation. That is the race up, which we, the new majority, understand, as evidenced by our passing the largest financial aid package for college since the GI bill, by focusing and refocusing our efforts on math and science and technology investments.

So there is a way to make this a race up. But it is not just passing one more trade bill, one more trade law, one more agreement, without addressing all of these other issues. One of the other big issues for us is currency manipulation. This is something I am pleased to say the Finance Committee has begun to address with a bill that has come out of committee. We have not had the opportunity to have that on the floor yet, to bring that up, but right now we are in a situation where, again, because of governmental policies, because of China specifically, where they can peg the value of their money, their currency, in a way so that when their products come into us, on top of paying 60 cents or a dollar an hour and not having health care costs and all the other things, they can undercut us and get up to a 40-percent discount on that product coming in.

So when the President talked about Wal-Mart, when you look at the number of Chinese products and why they are lower, they also get a 40-percent discount on their price just from currency manipulation, which is illegal. So before we pass another trade agreement, why don't we fix that? Why don't we make sure we have the toughest possible policies that will stop the loss of jobs because of currency manipulation?

We have also, among trade enforcement, the need to beef up our trade office. And I am very pleased Senator Lindsey Graham and I have been working on this now for some time to create a trade enforcement division, headed by a trade enforcement officer, an independent trade enforcement officer--we have called it a U.S. trade prosecutor--to be able to truly beef up our enforcement.

I am pleased Senator Baucus and Senator Grassley, our leaders on finance, have put together a broader enforcement bill, which I support, and include many of our provisions and aspects of our bill in their bill. That needs to get done. And I know the chairman is committed to having that happen, and I am anxious to join him in moving that through so that we can truly have credibility in the world, with other countries; that we mean it when we say there is a trade agreement and we expect other people to follow the rules.

But what do we see from the administration? There have been a couple of efforts, and I appreciate the few times they have moved forward to try to do something. There is an effort going on in auto parts now, but it is very little and it is very late, as we watch more and more jobs leaving this country. And I am very concerned, very disappointed when I see that this administration has not moved forward at all on any real action on currency manipulation or any number of trade enforcement issues. In fact, last week, the administration claimed victory for developing a voluntary agreement with China on illegal subsidies, an agreement that requires a great deal of trust with China. It is hard to understand they would continue to trust on a voluntary basis a country that has broken agreements and international policies over and over and over.

Furthermore, haven't we learned our lesson with voluntary agreements? Like the one completed with South Korea that was intended to, in fact, allow us to open up more opportunities to make automobiles here and be able to sell them to South Korea. Two agreements, not one, two voluntary agreements, and the exact opposite happened with 700,000 vehicles now coming in from South Korea, and we are barely able to get 5,000 back in to them. So voluntary agreements in the past have not worked. And given how many jobs we are losing, today is not the time for another voluntary agreement. We need, in fact, to put our muscle behind tough enforcement processes. We are quickly losing our standard of living and our middle class in this country. There is a need for urgency that has not been there and is not there today with the administration.

As a result of the trade policies we have in place now, we have an exploding trade deficit, which has increased from $380 billion in 2000 to $758 billion just last year. Since this administration has been in office, the trade deficit has more than doubled, and with it the number of dangerous products coming in, the number of layoffs, the number of waiting lists for people who need retraining, the number of businesses losing their patents, losing their products, and their ability to sell their products because of currency manipulation. That is the legacy of this administration.

I don't believe it is a time to reward them with another trade agreement. Before we go any further in passing trade agreements, Mr. President, we have to get our trade policy right. Regardless of the specifics of the trade agreement, regardless of the words on paper, we better be able to back them up, and today we cannot. We haven't backed up words on paper. We can no longer say pass a trade agreement, we will fix it later, we will enforce it later, we will change it later, or we will help people later. We have to do these things now so we have credibility with the American people who are counting on us to fight for them and to understand that in the greatest country in the world, it is time to stand up for the middle class in this country, get our trade policy right, and stand up for the people who have worked hard to make this country great.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.


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