Opposing US Trade Policy Is Pro-Worker, Not Anti-Trade

Kennebec Journal As chairman of the House Trade Working Group, I am often portrayed as anti-trade. Nothing could be further from the truth. Trade always has been and will continue to be a pillar of American ideals and commerce, and I strongly support it. What I don't support is blindly pursuing the same trade policy that we've pursued for decades without analyzing how we can make it work better and improve our economy.

We need to increase trade, but we must do so in a way that benefits our workers and businesses here in the U.S. by providing them a truly level international playing field. Unfortunately, you wouldn't know my position by reading this paper's recent editorial lauding three pending free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea. The editorial the paper ran even went so far as to say that "these trade agreements are not that controversial." Really? I can understand making that claim if you listen to the Korean embassy, for example, or the giant multinational corporations that have the resources to offshore supply chains to countries where labor is cheaper. But I don't listen to their talking points, or President Obama's, for that matter. Despite the fact the president and I are in the same political party, I've opposed him on these trade deals because I've dug into the issue and looked beyond the simplistic rhetoric. Take the Korea trade agreement. It is a four-year-old, NAFTA-style agreement with unique problems that make it even more threatening to U.S. workers and our manufacturing sector. But you won't hear that in the D.C. talking points supporting it. The administration will say that this agreement is key to increasing U.S. exports. But what they don't say is that it increases Korean imports too, which will expand our trade deficit by hundreds of millions of dollars each year and cost us 159,000 merican jobs. The administration will say that this trade deal is important for U.S. national security. But what they don't want to talk about is the potential for it to benefit North Korea through the Kaesong Industrial Complex, which lies on the border between North and South Korea. And they can't say the trade deal prevents underpriced Chinese goods from being transshipped through Korea and dumped in our country. And administration officials will say that they fixed the auto provisions and opened up Korea's market to all U.S. companies. But what they don't mention is the fact they only fixed the auto provisions on paper, in side agreements that are not enforceable. In their push to pass the trade deal, the administration doesn't tell the American people that the Treasury Department identified Korea as a currency manipulator in both exchange rate reports issued this year. I can understand why it wouldn't want to highlight this fact, because the trade agreement does nothing to stop Korea's currency manipulation. So to say trade agreements like the one with Korea are not controversial because they lower certain tariffs is just wrong. That's not even close to the full picture. Maine workers are tired of getting pink slips because of unfair foreign competition. It's long past time our country strictly enforces trade agreements currently on the books and seeks passage of more balanced deals. That's why I met in the White House with President Obama last year to tell him why we must pursue serious changes to the pending Korea agreement to make it fairer for American businesses and workers. And it's why I've laid out a path forward that would set out a new model for negotiating trade agreements that doesn't just result in further U.S. wage suppression and reductions in our manufacturing capacity. Where we are today on this issue is disappointing. I have been joined by many others in voicing opposition to the same old policies and offering improvements that could be made, but the Obama administration, like the Bush administration, has done next to nothing to change our nation's fundamental approach to trade policy. And they're still trotting out the same old talking points we heard about NAFTA. It's time to move forward. I'm hopeful that Mainers will see beyond the rhetoric and overly simplified appeals for support on such complex issues. I know that I'll be working with my colleagues to oppose these agreements when they come to the floor for a vote and will continue to fight for fairer trade that promotes the export of American goods, not American jobs. Read original post here.