Senate Fast Track Vote

Thursday, May 23, 2002

Congressional Record 107th Congress Second Session Thursday, May 23, 2002

Mr. President, when fighting for American working men and woman, most members of Congress want go into the ring with both arms swinging. That is why I am at a loss to understand why some members of Congress are willing to tie one hand behind their back when it comes to trade. The way I see it, fast track ties one hand behind our collective back when trade agreements come before the Congress.

I have some serious concerns with the Baucus-Grassley fast track legislation being considered by the Senate. Granting the President broad "fast track" authority to negotiate trade agreements means Congress must adopt a law to implement any trade agreement on a straight up or down vote, without the ability to offer amendments. I believe in free trade. I supported the Jordan Free Trade Agreement, the Vietnam Free Trade Agreement and granting China PNTR. But I am reluctant to give up the Congressional right to amend trade legislation, sight unseen. When we do that, we are throwing away one of the most effective tools in forcing fairer trade practices.

We should negotiate trade agreements to protect human rights as well as labor and environmental standards. The Senate should have acted to ensure that these and other provisions addressing fairness in trade practices are included in future trade agreements. The Baucus-Grassley approach doesn't provide us with the means to do that and in fact falls far short of achieving these goals.

America's trade policy over the past 30 years has helped create a one way street. The U.S. market is one the most open in the world, yet we have failed to achieve foreign markets being equally open to American products. Some of the trade agreements the U.S. has entered into have fallen far short of opening foreign markets. To ensure free and fair trade will be achieved in any future trade agreement, Congress must not give up its ability to amend the legislation implementing the agreement.

I have fought hard to strengthen U.S. trade laws to help open foreign markets to American and Michigan products such as automobiles, auto parts, communications equipment, cherries, apples, and wood products.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), enacted January 1, 1994, is a good example of a trade agreement negotiated under "fast track" authority. It contained provisions allowing Mexico to protect its auto industry and discriminate against U.S. manufactured automobiles used cars and auto parts for up to 25 years. It allowed Mexico to require auto manufacturers assembling vehicles in Mexico to purchase 36 percent of their parts from Mexican parts manufacturers. It also allowed for 25 more years the Mexican law against selling American used cars in Mexico, a highly discriminatory provision against U.S. autos.

When NAFTA was presented to Congress, it was an agreement which discriminated against some of the principal products that are made in Michigan. I surely could not vote for the bill the way it was written, nor could I try to amend the bill because the "fast track" authority the President had at that time prohibited implementing legislation from being amended. Consequently, after NAFTA was enacted, the U.S. went from a trade surplus of $1.7 billion in 1993 to a trade deficit of $25 billion with Mexico in 2000. Over the same period, our trade deficit increased from $11 billion to $44.9 billion with Canada. Since NAFTA was enacted, the automotive trade deficit with Mexico has reached $23 billion.

Moreover, between January, 1994 and early May 2002, the Department of Labor certified over 400,000 workers as having suffered job losses as a result of increased imports from or plant relocations to Mexico or Canada. These job losses occurred all over the county as well as from around the state of Michigan. For example, 27 employees from the Blue Water Fiber company in Port Huron who produced pulp for paper lost their jobs as a result of NAFTA imports. 129 employees of Alcoa Fujikura Limited in Owosso who made electronic radio equipment lost their jobs to Mexico. 1,133 employees of the Copper Range Mine in the UP lost their jobs when operations were moved to Canada. 300 employees of Eagle Ottawa Leather in Grand Haven who made leather for automobile interiors lost their jobs when their jobs moved to Mexico. The list of NAFTA-TAA certified job losses goes on and on. These are not job losses from a level playing field. These are losses from a sloping field tilted against us.

We've lost too many manufacturing jobs because our trade policies have been so weak over the decades. I've always believed that when countries raise barriers to our products that we ought to treat them no better than they treat us. Fast track authority makes it more difficult for Congress to insist on fair treatment for American products and equal access to foreign markets.

Calling NAFTA a free trade agreement was disingenuous. NAFTA protected Mexican industries and it also gave special treatment to certain US industries. For example, leather products and footwear got the longest U.S. tariff phase out (15 years) and it included safeguard provisions against import surges in these sectors. Agricultural Commodities/Fruits and Vegetables (including sugar, cotton, dairy, peanuts, oranges) also got a 15 year U.S. tariff phase out, a quota system, and the reimposition of a higher duty if imports exceed agreed-upon quota levels. It's clear that those who are represented at the negotiating table are able to strike favorable deals to protect certain industries and products. That is not free trade.

NAFTA was not the only trade agreement that included specially tailored provisions for certain products. The trade bill we are being asked to vote on contains special provisions to protect textiles, citrus and some other specialty agriculture commodities.

The Andean Trade Preferences Act also protects certain industries. ATPA expands duty free access to Andean nations for some previously excluded categories of products but there are significant exclusions or special rules that continue to protect them. The exclusions in the Senate ATPA bill include:

Most footwear; Textiles and apparel are included but are subject to a number of special rules and limitations such as requiring that certain apparel products be sewn with US thread in order to receive duty-free access, requiring the use of a certain spandex product made exclusively by the DuPont company, requiring the use of US yarn throughout in order to qualify for duty-free access; Canned tuna is included but the Senate bill allows duty free treatment for very limited quantities of canned tuna to be imported and subject to a very restrictive rule of origin. These are special protections being granted to specific industry sectors. Why are these products be treated in a privileged manner over other important U.S.-made or grown products? This is not free trade.

I believe that writing labor and environmental standards into trade agreements is an important way to ensure that free trade is fair trade. Regrettably, this legislation does not go far enough to assure international labor and environmental standards will be present in trade agreements. We need trade agreements with enforceable labor and environmental provisions but this bill does not provide for it.

This is unfortunate given the U.S. Senate is already on record supporting strong labor and environmental standards in trade agreements. The Senate passed the Jordan Free Trade Agreement on September 21, 2001. The Jordan agreement broke new ground in its treatment of labor and environmental standards in trade agreements. For the first time, it required that the parties to the agreement reflect the core internationally recognized labor rights in their own domestic labor laws.

The bill the Senate is considering today does not require countries to implement the core ILO labor standards. It only requires them to enforce their existing labor laws, however weak they may be. It also specifically states that the US may not retaliate against a trading partner that lowers or weakens its labor or environmental laws.

This language undercuts our ability to negotiate strong labor and environmental standards in future trade agreements because our trading partners know we can't enforce what we negotiate through the use of sanctions and the dispute settlement process.

American workers already compete against workers from countries where wages are significantly lower than in the United States. They should not also have to compete against countries that gain an unfair comparative advantage because they pollute their air and water and fail to allow their workers to exercise rights that are fundamental. The United States enacted environmental standards that protect our air and water. We have enacted labor standards that allow for collective bargaining and the right to organize, that prohibit the use of child labor and provide protections for workers in the work place. These are desirable standards that we worked hard to get. Why should we force American workers to compete against countries with no such standards or protection for its workers?

There are many ways to improve this fast track legislation to address some of the concerns I've outlined. I supported many of these efforts. For Congress to give up its role under the Constitution without those protections is to fail to learn from our past mistakes. To do so means we have willingly tied one hand behind our back in the fight for free and fair trade. That is something I am simply unwilling to do.

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