Democrats Call CAFTA Just One Example of Misplaced Priorities
Washington, DC – Today, leading pro-trade Senate Democrats joined together in opposition to the Central American Free Trade Agreement and the Bush administration’s failed trade policies. Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin, Senator Debbie Stabenow, Senator Chuck Schumer and Senator John Kerry declared CAFTA a flawed agreement that symbolizes the Bush White House’s pattern of misplaced priorities and failure to develop an effective strategy to make trade keep America competitive.
“I have voted for free trade and I believe in free trade – provided it is fair trade that expands our economy and creates American jobs. But our President has put forward a trade strategy that offers only small short-term benefits, but in the long run hurts American manufacturers and farmers,” said Senator Durbin. “The Bush Administration refuses to stand up and enforce our existing trade laws when confronted with unfair trade practices against the United States. That needs to change, and we cannot continue to approve trade agreements that do not serve our long-term national interests. CAFTA is a flawed agreement that does not address basic labor standards which is why I will vote against that measure today. CAFTA is the wrong agreement at the wrong time.”
The Bush administration has failed to address the growing trade deficit, now on pace to exceed $700 billion in 2005. This record trade deficit has made America more reliant on foreign borrowing – weakening the American economy. At the same time, American workers continue to face the outsourcing of jobs overseas and the negative impact of China’s unfair trading practices with no action from this administration.
“CAFTA will ship jobs overseas and provide few export markets for American companies,” said Senator Stabenow. “Rather than entering into another free trade agreement with countries that don’t share our wage structure, labor standards, or environmental standards, we need start enforcing the agreements already in place.”
The Senators criticized the administration for putting forward a flawed trade agreement that takes a step backwards from current U.S. trade rules. By failing to require that trade partners meet basic internationally accepted standards, the president missed the opportunity to create an agreement that would benefit workers here and abroad. Without the needed investments for workers overseas and training assistance for workers here at home, CAFTA represents a misguided approach on trade.
“I have been a long-time supporter of free trade, but I believe it must be accompanied by strong enforcement mechanisms to ensure our trade agreements are followed, as well as a fair and open process for raising concerns and resolving violations. Despite strong bipartisan support for an amendment improving labor enforcement provisions, there is nothing in the final CAFTA language that addresses any labor enforcement concerns. In fact, while the committee favored extending Trade Adjustment Assistance to service workers in markup, the final agreement doesn’t extend TAA for service workers. We want to promote free trade AND fair trade. Without adding provisions for fair trade, the administration faces a rising tide of opposition to trade agreements,” said Senator Schumer.
“It’s no mystery why so many long-time leaders on trade oppose CAFTA. Rather than build on the success of the Jordan Free Trade Agreement which advanced labor and environmental standards, CAFTA breaks a ten year consensus on trade policy. Unlike previous Republican and Democratic administrations, the Bush administration negotiates trade deals that take us backward and refuses to enforce the trade agreements we already have,” said Senator Kerry. “Under CAFTA, workers don’t even have the same standing to end child labor that corporations have to end copyright theft. That’s an unfair double-standard that punishes American workers. Our trade agreements can and must do a better job empowering American workers to win in a globalized world, and helping to lift up people and economies across the globe to aid in stability and security. By that measure, this Administration’s trade policy is a total failure, and it’s up to us to set the right standard for free trade.”