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This Week In Washington

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This Week In Washington

We are all too familiar with the devastating effects of manufacturing job losses in our region of North Carolina. I spent 27 years working in a textile mill that closed in 2003. While I moved on to teaching, many of my friends lost their jobs as bad trade deals shipped those jobs to other countries.

These unfair trade agreements have resulted in a 29 percent decline in U.S. manufacturing jobs since 1993. We've seen it firsthand. Our district was suffering long before the rest of the country felt the impact of the recession.

The key to putting folks back to work is the revitalization of U.S. manufacturing. This week, I joined other members in calling for the repeal of the North American Free Trade Agreement by sponsoring HR 4759.

These trade deals, while designed otherwise, in fact, discourage investment in American manufacturing facilities while eroding our industrial base. When the U.S. entered into NAFTA, we had a trade surplus of $1.7 billion with Mexico. By 2007, this surplus had turned into a deficit peaking at $75 billion. In 1993, our trade deficit with Canada was $11 billion, and by 2008, it had skyrocketed to $78 billion.

I agree with my friend, Congressman Gene Taylor of Mississippi, when he said, "Timing is everything in life and it's the right time to pass this legislation. Proponents have had more than enough time to make this work -- It didn't."

As a member of the House Trade Working Group, I am fighting for legislation to require the U.S. to make honest and comprehensive assessments of our current trade policies and to set us on a path toward new models for trade agreements that protect American jobs. Reducing our trade deficit and energize our manufacturing sector must be priorities in any future trade discussions.

Specifically, the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development, and Employment Act would renegotiate the three major free trade agreements and establish mandatory core standards to be included in future agreements to preserve and create American jobs.

Another piece of legislation is the National Manufacturing Strategy Act which establishes a Manufacturing Strategy Board to conduct in-depth analysis of the industry and develop strategies for enhancing competitiveness and success in the global economy.

I also demanded Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to look into China's continued manipulation of its currency. China pegs its currency to the U.S. dollar at a fixed exchange rate which allows China to unfairly subsidize its exports and puts foreign imports at a disadvantage.

To address our economy and give American companies and workers a fair chance to compete against their Chinese counterparts, we have to address this serious issue.

Maintaining its currency at a devalued exchange rate provides a subsidy to Chinese companies and puts foreign exports at a decisive disadvantage. U.S. exports cannot compete with low-priced Chinese equivalents and American producers struggle to compete with subsidized Chinese imports.

The Department of Commerce should apply the U.S. countervailing duty law in defense of American companies who suffer as a result of this manipulation. The U.S. is permitted to respond to subsidized imports where the elements of the subsidy are met under the countervailing law. I also called on the Department of Treasury to include China in its bi-annual agency report on currency manipulation.

We all have to do our part as consumers too. We have to pay attention to where the products we buy are manufactured. Buy American has to be more than a slogan. It is patriotic, and we all have to assume responsibility.

The effects of the bad trade deals on our district and our manufacturing sector are far reaching and can't be solved overnight. As I have often said, we won't have fair trade until the jobs we've lost have been replaced. Together, these actions will put our folks back to work.

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