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Extending the Generalized System of Preferences

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DREIER. I thank my friend for yielding.

Madam Speaker, it's taken a long time for us to get here. We've had hours and hours of debate, last night and today, and literally years and years and years of discussion and of negotiation, and a lot of anguish and a lot of pain, but we have finally gotten here.

I want to begin by expressing my great appreciation to a man with whom I've been pleased to partner in cochairing what has been a longstanding group known as our Trade Working Group. It's sometimes partisan, sometimes bipartisan. It began two decades ago when Bill Archer was chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and Phil Crane chaired the Trade Subcommittee, and with every chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and the Trade Subcommittee, I've been privileged to join with them in working to build these coalitions for the very important goal of breaking down barriers to ensure that we can have access to consumer markets for union and nonunion workers in this country. And this is what it's all about.

Dave Camp has done a phenomenal job in negotiating these trade agreements and the issue which is before us today, which is trade adjustment assistance. Now I know that there's a lot of concern about it. I'm frankly not a huge enthusiast, but I recognize that while there is a net gain--a net gain--when it comes to the issue of global trade, there are some workers who are displaced.

While some people have been saying that those of us who are enthusiastically supporting the Korea, Panama, and Colombia free trade agreements are greatly exaggerating the positive impact of this, I've got to say that I recognize that there are some people who are going to be going through challenging economic times as a byproduct of this agreement. That's why, as we look at this 21st century economy, it is critically important for us, Madam Speaker, to do everything that we can to ensure that our fellow Americans, U.S. workers, have the kind of training and expertise necessary to deal with this global economy in the 21st century. That's exactly what the Trade Adjustment Assistance package is all about. It's a modest package of $300 million.

I know that last night, as he has just informed me, Mr. Camp outlined the details of this to the House. He worked with the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Mr. Baucus, and with others to get this to the point where we are.

But we are now winding down this debate, and I think about the fact that, when Ronald Reagan on November 6 of 1979 announced his candidacy for President of the United States, in that speech, it was seen as heresy. I mean, it was almost a joke, Madam Speaker. Ronald Reagan said that he envisaged an accord of free trade among the Americas so that we could allow for the free flow of goods and services and capital. He was laughed at here in the United States, and he was laughed at throughout the hemisphere. Madam Speaker, since that time, we have seen tremendous, tremendous changes taking place.


Mr. DREIER. It has been almost 32 years since Ronald Reagan made that announcement; and last Monday, a week ago Monday, on October 3, Democratic President Barack Obama sent these agreements for us to consider, and here we are now doing this.

There are so many people who have been involved in this. One of the things that has really impressed me, Madam Speaker, has been the involvement of the 87--now, I guess, 89--new Members on our side of the aisle who have brought about a change in the makeup of this institution. There are people who have stepped to the forefront--Tom Reed, Rick Berg, Tim Griffin, Bob Dold, Quico Canseco, and many others--who have felt strongly about the need to get our economy growing and who know that, in so doing, we will be able to create jobs for U.S. workers.


Mr. DREIER. Let me just close by saying, over that 5-year period of time, Madam Speaker, we have seen so many tremendous changes that have taken place. Five years is half the life for a child who was born on September 11. There have been changes in our economy--and in the global economy--in dealing with issues that weren't even addressed then. The iPad didn't exist 5 years ago when these were put into place. There are issues like encryption, cross-border dataflow, things like intermediary liability, privacy. Those were barely discussed then. Today, these are critical, important issues. This is a very small first step towards regaining our position as the world's global leader.

I thank my friend for his support, and I thank all of our colleagues who have been involved in this.


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