October 12, 2011
There’s arguably no part of our nation that has seen or best understands the very real and harmful effects of bad trade deals more than right here at home. Sadly, this week will bring the three pending NAFTA-style Free Trade Agreements before Congress—the same deals with Korea, Panama and Columbia that we’ve known were on their way. Even worse, these fast-track “free” trade deals are all scheduled for a vote on the same exact day, with limited time for debate or opposition. I’ve fought these trade deals at every turn, and I’ll continue my fight on the House floor this week.
Just as we saw with NAFTA and CAFTA, unfair policies will be pushed down onto our small businesses and working families, with no regard for the shape our economy is currently in, or where we all know it needs to be. The unfair framework of these deals will do nothing more than offshore more and more jobs, the absolute last thing the American people need. At a time when our main focus should be empowering our businesses and families, and getting government off the backs of those working to find success, we instead find ourselves on the brink of signing away entire industries and the livelihood of regions just like ours. I cannot support such a misguided and shameful thing.
The Korea Free Trade Agreement alone has the potential to be most damaging for our area, allowing products to cross our shores tariff-free on Day 1, after being made in countries like China and North Korea. The non-partisan Economic Policy Institute estimates that the Korea trade deal could potentially displace as many as 159,000 American workers, with much of the loss falling on our manufacturing sector—the jobs that build our economy.
Our domestic manufacturers have suffered enough, and it’s time we show them the respect they deserve and stop offering them up as a bargaining chip with foreign nations. Our economy won’t recover if we continue to gamble away the things that make us great. We’ve seen too much of this lately and we have to start keeping our promises, whether it’s the promise to protect our seniors and veterans, or the proud men and women that clock in and out each day at the local mill or factory who only want a fair chance to make a living. We have to protect the industries that built America. They will bring about our economic recovery if given the chance to compete fairly.
I often remind my colleagues in Washington that the very definition of insanity is doing the same thing, over and over, and expecting different results. Sadly, that is precisely what we’re seeing happen. Over the past 25 years, our nation has been sold the same bill of goods time and time again that promises jobs and prosperity, but has brought us the exact opposite. You can dress these NAFTA-style trade deals up in whatever fake facts or false logic you want, but the bottom line remains that they’re bad for our country. Supporters of the deals have provided half-truths meant to avoid the larger overarching fact that these unfair deals further perpetuate the problems with our economy that we’ve seen in recent times. There is no incentive to shipping 60,000 American-made cars to Korea if the very same trade deal then allows over 600,000 Korean-made cars to enter our markets each and every year in return. The numbers just don’t add up.
At their very core, these trade agreements are not “free” at all—there is a cost to them—the success of the American worker and our domestic industries. It is a race to the bottom. How much more of our manufacturing sector must be brought to the brink of destruction by trade deals that leave us with an unfair playing field for our workers and businesses, shipping job after job to other countries, along with countless American dollars, before folks wake up? I know and understand what NAFTA and CAFTA did to our area, and I’m fighting hard to remind other Members of Congress that they too have constituents back home who rely on these very same industries. We cannot blindly abandon the American worker in the name of foreign relations or for political reasons. A strong American manufacturing sector that is exporting products ‘Made in the USA’ is what will fuel our economic recovery, and we can’t settle for less.
It is my honor to represent you in Congress, and I will continue to fight these unfair trade agreements at every possible step. I will proudly vote against all three of these bills this week, and I’ll continue to honor the promise I’ve made to you to never put any interest above yours.