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Providing for Consideration of Senate Amendment to H.R. 2832, Extending the Generalized System of Preference; Providing for Consideration of H.R. 3078, United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act; Providing for Consideration of H.R

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DREIER. On November 6 of 1979, Ronald Reagan announced his candidacy for President of the United States. In that speech, he envisaged an accord of free trade among the Americas. He wanted to eliminate all barriers for the free flow of goods and services and products among all of the countries in this hemisphere.

On October 3 of 2011, President Obama sent three trade agreements to Capitol Hill for consideration. It has been a long time. I mean, 32 years, I guess, this coming November 6 we will mark the anniversary of President Reagan announcing his candidacy for the Presidency and of which he envisaged this accord.

It has been a very, very difficult struggle to get here; but, Mr. Speaker, today marks the first step in this last leg of what, as I said, has been an extraordinarily lengthy journey towards the passage of our three free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea.

For 4 years, workers and consumers in the United States and in all three FTA countries have waited for the opportunities that these agreements will create. Republicans and Democrats alike--and let me underscore that again. Republicans and Democrats alike have worked very hard to bring us to this point. We have done so, first and foremost, for the sake of job creation and economic growth.

We're regularly hearing discussion on both sides of the aisle about the imperative of creating jobs and getting our economy on track. The President of the United States delivered a speech here to a joint session of Congress in which he talked about the need to pass his jobs bill. Mr. Speaker, this is a very important component of that proposal that the President talked about when he was here. So, as I hear a great deal of discussion about a lack of willingness on Capitol Hill to address the President's jobs bill, it's not an ``all or nothing'' thing. We are taking the very, very important components that the President has proposed addressing. We've worked in a bipartisan way, and this measure before us is evidence of that.

As I said, the passage of these agreements will allow us to have an opportunity to create good jobs for union and nonunion Americans who are seeking job opportunities. Together, these agreements will give U.S. workers, businesses, farmers access to $2 trillion of economic activity; and our union and nonunion workers, our farmers and people across this country will have access to 97 million consumers in these three countries.

President Obama, in his address here, made it very clear and has said repeatedly that the independent International Trade Commission has said that, in the coming months, we will add a quarter of a million new jobs right here in the United States of America--again, union and nonunion jobs. The independent International Trade Commission has projected that we will see a quarter of a million--250,000--new jobs for our fellow Americans seeking job opportunities.

I don't need to explain to anyone in this place why this is so critical for our ailing economy, but those of us who have joined together to finally pass these agreements are working towards something that is even bigger. We are working to restore the bipartisan consensus on the issue of open trade. Eradicating partisan politics from the debate on global economic liberalization and returning to a bipartisan consensus is essential in our quest to move our economy forward. These three agreements are enormously important; but, Mr. Speaker, as you know very well, there is still much work that remains to be done.

Now, I understand that the opponents of economic liberalization are very well-intentioned, and I don't fault them. I will say that, as we all know very well, we're in the midst of deeply troubling economic times. It's easy. We all want to look somewhere to point the finger of blame, and trade is a natural target. I mean, I often argue that I still have constituents in southern California who, when they get a hangnail, blame the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Trade is a natural target for frustration and anxiety, and we've seen that time and time again. And I know that there are people who believe that passage of these trade agreements which, according to the ITC, would create 250,000 new jobs right here in the United States of America, is, in fact, a bad thing. Trade is the wrong target, Mr. Speaker.

The worldwide marketplace, as we all know, is a big, dynamic, and complex operation. It offers tremendous opportunity for those who engage and tremendous peril for those who follow the isolationist path. Those who innovate, who aggressively pursue new ideas and new opportunities are able to compete and succeed. The U.S. has proven this time and time again. The American entrepreneurial spirit has enabled us to not just succeed, but, as we all know, we are the largest, most dynamic economy on the face of the Earth. These agreements will allow us to reaffirm and strengthen that.

We all know this, Mr. Speaker: Our country, the United States of America, is the birthplace of Google and Facebook, of Ford and IBM, of Caterpillar and Whirlpool, and of Coca-Cola and eBay. Unfortunately, over the last several years, while the three free trade agreements have languished, the United States of America has stood still. We've let countless opportunities pass us by. We've let our competitors chip away at our market share. If we compete, the United States of America wins. If we compete, we win.

But what happens when we take ourselves out of the game, which has been the case for the last several years? We've literally taken ourselves out of the game of breaking down barriers, allowing for the free flow of goods and services and capital. What happens? We lose jobs. We lose market share, and we lose our competitive edge.

Now, I'm not going to say that we would not have gone through the terrible economic downturn that we've suffered over the past few years if we had, several years ago, passed these trade agreements. Negotiations began back in 2004 for these agreements. If we had stepped up to the plate, I am absolutely convinced that we would have mitigated the pain and suffering that our fellow Americans are going through with this ailing economy that we have.

Getting our economy back on track and reasserting our American leadership role in the worldwide marketplace will require far more than simply passing these free trade agreements, but it's a key and very important step. The agreements will open new markets for workers and job creators here in the United States; and perhaps even more important, it will send a signal to the world that the United States of America is back open for business.

The United States of America is once again choosing to shape the global marketplace rather than to allow ourselves to be shaped by it. Because, Mr. Speaker, if we don't shape the global marketplace, we will continue to be shaped by that global marketplace. We will also send a very powerful message to our allies that the United States of America is living up to its commitments.

Now, Mr. Speaker, it is utterly shameful that we have forced three close friends of the United States--two of our own neighbors right here in the Americas and one in an extraordinarily strategic region--to wait for 4 long years. It is shameful that we have forced these friends and allies, who negotiated in good faith with us for these agreements, to wait as long as they have.

One of the things we've observed is that the world has taken note. Our would-be negotiators--not only on trade agreements but on other issues as well--our would-be trade partners and negotiating partners, as I said, on issues beyond trade have taken note.

I don't believe that our credibility will be immediately restored with the passage of these free trade agreements, but we will at least begin the process. We will begin the process of demonstrating credibility on the part of the United States. We will signal that the U.S. is recommitting itself to its partnerships, that our word at the negotiating table can be trusted.

Very sadly, over the past several years, our partners could come to no other conclusion than that our word cannot be trusted at the negotiating table because of action that was taken here a few years ago, rejecting an opportunity for consideration of these agreements.

Mr. Speaker, this rule puts in place a lengthy debate process, during which the tremendous economic and geopolitical benefits of these three trade agreements will be discussed, and the misinformation surrounding these agreements will be able to be refuted. That's why I think this is a very important debate. It's vitally important that we have this debate so that the facts can get on the table and the ability to refute specious arguments can be put forward. And that's what's going to happen this evening and tomorrow leading up to the votes that we are going to cast.

This rule provides also for the consideration of

Trade Adjustment Assistance, a modest program that has helped to build that bipartisan consensus that I have been talking about and I believe is essential to our economic recovery. Now, I don't believe that the TAA program is perfect. Meaningful reforms have been incorporated. And most important, Mr. Speaker, the passage of Trade Adjustment Assistance will, in turn, help us not just pass the FTAs, but it will help us maintain what I have had as a goal going back two decades ago when we put together a trade working group that has had bipartisan participation. It will allow us to rebuild the bipartisan consensus that I think is so important. That will send a powerful message to the markets, to job creators, to workers in this country, to Americans who are seeking job opportunities, and it will send a very important message to our allies and we hope future allies throughout this world.

So, Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to come together in a strong bipartisan way and support the rule that will allow us to have a very, very rigorous debate on the underlying agreements and Trade Adjustment Assistance.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 30 seconds to say that Colombia has gone through incredible tragedy over the past several years. It has been absolutely horrible. And the suffering that my colleague from Worcester has just shown is very, very disturbing. But I think we should note that we have seen an 85 percent decline in the murder rate. In fact, there are cities in this country that have a higher murder rate than exist in Colombia today.


Mr. DREIER. I yield myself an additional 15 seconds, Mr. Speaker.

We also should make it very, very clear that it is safer to be a union member and union leader in Colombia because of the protection that's provided by the government than to be the average citizen. Let's solidify those gains, and that's exactly what these agreements will do.

With that, I am happy to yield 2 minutes to a very, very thoughtful individual committed to the trade agenda, my good friend from Hinsdale, Illinois (Mrs. Biggert).


Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 15 seconds to say that free trade is fair trade. And it's interesting to note that the United Auto Workers supports the agreement that exists. I totally concur with my friend from Rochester in arguing, Mr. Speaker, that we must enforce the agreements that we have, including on intellectual property issues.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 1 minute to say that we are going to respond to some of these arguments that have been made.

First, Colombia is not the safest place in the world. I'm the first to acknowledge that. There are terrible, terrible problems there. We've been dealing with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the FARC, the paramilitaries, and serious, serious problems that have existed in Colombia. No one is trying to whitewash or dismiss the serious challenges that exist there. But it's important to note that nearly 2,000 labor leaders in Colombia, Mr. Speaker, have around-the-clock bodyguards protecting them. And in Colombia, it is safer to be a unionist than it is the average citizen.

So I'm not saying that things are perfect. No one is making that claim. But when we've seen an 85 percent decrease in the murder rate since 2002, when we've seen more murders take place--tragically--in some of our cities than have taken place in some areas of Colombia, that is something that has to be seen as progress.


Mr. DREIER. I yield myself an additional 15 seconds.

We have sat and painstakingly, with several other of our colleagues, Democrats and Republicans alike, gone through these pending cases to bring about a resolution on this issue; and in just a few minutes, I'm going to be yielding to my friend, Mr. Farr, to talk specifically about this and the challenges we have.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I am happy to yield 1 1/2 minutes to my very good friend, the chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, who represents what she calls the gateway to the Americas. I think Los Angeles comes pretty close to that too. But Miami, Mr. Speaker, is the gateway to the Americas, and they are very ably represented by our colleague from Florida (Ms. Ros-Lehtinen).


Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 30 seconds to say that it's obvious that Colombia is not a safe place. I'm not claiming that at all. There have been murders that have taken place and it still is a very dangerous spot. But it's important to note that a Mr. Gomez, who is the leader of one of the three main labor organizations in Colombia, has said that the labor agreements included in this package are the single greatest achievement for social justice in the last 50 years of Colombia's history.

We still have a long way to go, Mr. Speaker. We still have a long way to go, but progress is being made.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 30 seconds to say to my friend that we have been debating this issue since the negotiations began in 2004. Time and time again on this House floor, we've had very rigorous debates on these agreements. And I will acknowledge, we do have problems with job creation and economic growth.

What this measure does, Mr. Speaker, is it eliminates the barrier for union and nonunion workers and farmers in this country to have access to new markets.


Mr. DREIER. I yield myself an additional 30 seconds, Mr. Speaker.

On August 15, because we had done nothing, our Colombian friends negotiated a free trade agreement with the Canadians, with our good friends to the north, the Canadians.

And guess what, Mr. Speaker. In literally 1 month, there was an 18 1/2 percent increase in Canadian wheat exports to Colombia. This is the kind of opportunity that we've been prevented from having, and we've been debating this for 5 years. It's high time that we vote, and that's exactly what we're going to do, after hours of debate, both tonight and tomorrow.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 30 seconds to say that my friend from Illinois is absolutely right: Colombia is not a safe place. But we have seen an 85 percent reduction since 2002 in the murder rate among trade unionists. It's not perfect and it still is a very dangerous place, but that is progress.

I'd also like to say to my friend from Worcester--and I appreciate the fact that he didn't say it--Mr. Gomez is still supportive of the Colombia-U.S. free trade agreement that he mentioned in his remarks. And I think that he voiced frustration over the implementation of agreements. That's something that takes place in a free society. That's something we see here regularly and there regularly. Implementation of this will help with that enforcement.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, I mentioned the bipartisan nature of this, and to stress that, and being the only one who will yield time to Democrats who are in support of these agreements, I am happy to yield 2 1/2 minutes to my very good friend and a man with whom I have spent time in Colombia on numerous occasions and will in just a few weeks, the gentleman from Carmel, California, a Peace Corps volunteer who served four decades ago in Colombia and knows about it as well as anyone, Mr. Farr.


Mr. DREIER. I yield myself the balance of my time.

I'd like to get the debate back to where it was. We have before us four pending issues. We have trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, South Korea, and we have the very important trade adjustment assistance.

Mr. Speaker, our fellow Americans are hurting. Job creation and economic growth is something that Democrats and Republicans alike are talking about. I was listening to the words of one of the protest leaders up in New York. This guy was saying that the protests are about economic and social justice, and he said working class Americans can no longer be ignored.

Now, this measure that is before us, according to the International Trade Commission, will create 250,000 new jobs here in the United States of America. I argue that, if we had had these agreements in place, the pain that so many of our fellow Americans are feeling at this moment would not be as great as it has been because, for half a decade, these agreements have been languishing, waiting to be considered.

The last two speakers I yielded to happen to be Democrats. I am very proud of having worked closely together with Sam Farr and Gregory Meeks on these agreements. There are lots of other people who have been involved and who have worked tirelessly for years. Over the last two decades, I've had a working group that I started with former Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Archer, going all the way up now to working with Dave Camp and Kevin Brady and Wally Herger and others. There have been many people who have been involved in working with this. Democrats have joined with our bipartisan trade working group because there are Democrats and Republicans who want us to get back to the bipartisan approach to our global leadership role. They want to open up markets around the world for the United States of America; and with the passage of these three agreements, we're going to have access to $2 trillion of economic activity and to 97 million consumers.

Mr. Speaker, we need to support this rule. We're going to have debate going into this evening, and we're going to have debate throughout the day tomorrow. Let's support the rule.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time, and I move the previous question on the resolution.

The previous question was ordered.


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