Last week, the House of Representatives took a step backward in the fight to create American jobs and rebuild our nation's middle class when it passed three trade agreements that will no doubt add to our nation's trade deficit and ship more manufacturing jobs overseas. I opposed these trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama because I have seen firsthand the devastation wrought in our district and our economy by such deals as NAFTA and CAFTA, deals which effectively shuttered our mills and severely damaged our domestic textile industry.
I voted against these bills because I represent a district whose economy was crippled and manufacturing base was given away to foreign countries by our own government. Faced with the worst economic times since the Great Depression, this is not the time to bolster the economies of foreign lands. It is time to set America's interests as the top priority of our trade policy.
I have taken every opportunity to voice my contempt for these trade agreements. Prior to my no votes, I met with South Korean Ambassador Han Duk-soo to express my outrage over the trade agreement then pending with his country. I explained to the Ambassador that this agreement is wrong in many ways. The Ambassador tried to explain in elaborate terms how this agreement would be different, and that I had no cause for concern. I told him history tells me otherwise. I knew he was there on behalf of the South Korean people. That is his job. My job is to represent North Carolina's 8th District; this bill is bad for us, and that is the cause for my concern. I told the Ambassador there is nothing in this agreement to protect workers of my district. To that fact, he had no answer.
These deals are bad enough when actually enforced, but we all know that agreements like these are often broken as soon as they are implemented. There is nothing on Earth that will prevent slave labor driven manufacturers in China and North Korea from transshipping goods through South Korea and then on to America. Make no mistake, "Made in the Republic of Korea" will really mean "Made almost entirely in China." In August, the U.S. merchandise trade deficit with China hit a new all-time single month high of nearly $29 billion. And that number does not take into account the untraceable billions of dollars of goods being illegally transshipped from China through other countries with which America has trade deals.
I am not opposed to trade. I know trade has been a driving force for economic and cultural growth for millennia. But I am dead set against bad trade deals that our government bundles up like foreign aid and ships American jobs overseas like treats for our trading partners. Trade is vital; we just need to get serious about trade in a way that benefits America at least as much as it benefits those with whom we trade. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, American's five largest trading partners (Canada, China, Japan, Germany and Mexico) are the nations with which we run the five largest trading deficits. The conclusion is obvious, the more we trade with a country, the more they beat us at it. America's total 2011 trade deficit stands at $376 billion -- nearly 12 percent higher than during the first eight months of last year.
While the battle over these three trade deals has been lost, the fight to protect American jobs and rebuild our manufacturing sector and middle class must continue. I stand ready to support the Senate-passed bill to fight currency manipulation by China that places undue competitive shackles on our trade with that communist nation. In addition to fighting currency manipulation, I am going to insist, to the point of making some politicians and bureaucrats miserable, that our government rigidly enforces the rules of these agreements with our trading partners, including full and vigilant implementation of the Textile Enforcement Security Act to ensure that customs and border security officials are joined in the fight to keep unlawfully manufactured foreign goods out of the American marketplace.
In the midst of this most recent fight to return common sense to our trade policy, I had the distinct honor of again meeting with a group of people who are fighting that fight in the best possible way: by investing in and producing a local product that rivals any in the world. I attended a harvest celebration in our district held by Cotton of the Carolinas to honor a local farmer, Ronnie Burleson. Cotton of the Carolinas is pioneering the Dirt to Shirt movement, in which every phase of production, from seed to store shelf, is made in North Carolina. Spending time with these folks is all anyone need do to understand that American ingenuity, entrepreneurship and hard work can compete, and win, in the global economy if given a fair chance; and it will steel their determination to keep up the fight to see that our government doesn't do anything else to deny them that fair chance.