Remarks of Congressman Stephen F. Lynch on the Floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on the Central American Free Trade Agreement

Jul 20, 2005
Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to this so-called Central American Free Trade Agreement, CAFTA.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

 

Mr. Speaker, prior to my election to congress I had a chance to view the effect of US Trade policy at its most basic level.  That of the American worker.

 

Prior to coming to this Congress, I worked for about twenty years as an ironworker and as a welder.

 

I worked at the General Motors assembly plant in Framingham Massachusetts prior to GM's decision to close that plant and a number of others in Michigan in order to build plants in Mexico.

 

I also worked as a welder at the General Dynamics Shipyard in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Quincy, Massachusetts, before foreign competition and misguided trade policies moved that work overseas.

 

And I worked at the US Steel mills in Gary, Indiana, and at the Inland Steel mill in East Chicago, Indiana, before the steel industry relocated to third world countries in order to escape responsible labor and environmental standards.

 

I've seen first-hand the effects anti-worker trade policy has had on American families, and I've seen the devastation that occurs in American cities and towns when we adopt trade policies that encourage U.S. companies to send U.S. jobs overseas.

 

I've seen the impact on our schools and the fabric of our communities when large employers shut down the largest plant in town.

 

I haven't been in the Congress that long, but one of the things that I find surprising is the way people in Washington talk about "job loss."

 

People in Washington talk about job loss like it was a force of nature like the weather, as if a cold front rolled through here and swept two million U.S. jobs with it.

 

The loss of U.S. jobs is not a random event. It is very much the result of deliberate policies that have been adopted to favor stockholders of multinational companies who benefit from those trade agreements and trade policies. 

 

CAFTA is one of those policies.

 

It will result in massive gains for a few favored entities and do nothing for the workers in either the U.S. or in Central America.

 

It is time that we reassess our trade policy and stop rewarding companies for abandoning American workers.  It's also time to stop rewarding political leaders who put short-term profits above the long-term economic health of this nation.

 

It's time to stop U.S. policies that simply exploit foreign workers by adopting trade agreements that have no labor standards or environmental standards.

 

Our experience with NAFTA should inform our decision today.

 

At the time of NAFTA’S passage in 1993, the U.S. trade deficit was $39 billion.  Since then, it has soared to a record of over $617 billion in 2004; that’s a whopping 1,600 percent increase, and more than 5% of our nation’s GDP.

 

It is ironic that with the situation in Iraq we hear so much about exporting democracy.

 

Yet what we are doing here is exporting U.S. jobs and at the same time endorsing $2 a day jobs in Central America.

 

But I think we have a fatal flaw in our foreign policy.  You do not export democracy through the Defense Department.   It is exported through our trade agreements.

 

You do not export democracy by forcing workers to work for $2 a day.

 

If you follow the path of exploitation fostered by the mercenary and "winner take all" trade agreements that set worker against worker in a race to the bottom, in the end, you will, in those countries, see a retrenchment of hope and rejection of democracy itself.

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