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Fast Track

Sen. Byron L. Dorgan

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Mr. President, because the proposal for fast-track trade authority was not adopted, there have been a good many columns and commentators evaluating why fast track failed. I wanted to comment about that just a bit today. It is interesting. Even though the political pathologists for this legislation--the journalists, and the beltway insiders--have picked the fast track carcass clean, they still missed the cause of death.

The eulogies I read have no relationship to the deceased. Fast track didn't die because of unions and union opposition to fast track. Fast track didn't die because the President didn't have the strength to get it through the Congress. Fast track didn't die because our country doesn't want to engage in international trade. Fast track died because this country is deeply divided on trade issues. There is not a consensus in this country at this point on the issue of international trade. Instead of a national dialogue on trade we have at least a half dozen or more monologues on trade.

What people miss when they evaluate what happened to fast track is the deep concern that this country has not done well in international trade, especially in our trade agreements. This did not matter very much during the first 25 years after the Second World War. We could make virtually any agreement with anybody and provide significant concessions under the guise of foreign policy and we could still win the trade competition with one hand tied behind our backs. We could do that because we were bigger, better, stronger, better prepared, and better able. Thus, trade policy was largely foreign policy.

During the first 25 years after the Second World War, our incomes continued to rise in this country despite the fact that our trade policy was largely foreign policy. However, the second 25 years have told a different story, and we now face tougher and shrewder competition from countries that are very able to compete with us. And our trade policy must be more realistic and must be a trade policy that recognizes more the needs of this country.

Will Rogers said something, probably 70 years ago, that speaks to our trade policy concerns. I gave an approximate quote of that here on the floor the other day. He describes the concern people have about trade, yes, even today. Let me tell you what he said. Speaking of the United States, he said,

We have never lost a war and we have never won a

conference. I believe that we could, without any degree of

egotism, single-handedly lick any nation in the world. But we

can't even confer with Costa Rica and come home with our

shirts on.

A lot of people still feel this way about our country. We could lick any nation in the world but we can't confer with Costa Rica and come home with our shirts on. ``We have never lost a war and never won a conference,'' Will Rogers said.

What are the various interests here that cause all of this angst and anxiety? There is the interest of the corporations, particularly the very large corporations. They have an interest of profit. Their interest is to go somewhere else in the world and produce a product as cheaply as they can produce it and send it back to sell in America. That provides a profit. That is in their interest. It is a legitimate interest on behalf of their stockholders, but it is their interest. Is it parallel to the national interest?

Economists: their interest is seeing this in theory in terms of the doctrine of comparative advantage. Now this was first preached at a time when there weren't corporations, only nations. This is the notion that each nation should do what it is best prepared and equipped to do and then trade with others for that which it is least able to do.

Consumers: consumers have an interest, in some cases, of trying to buy the cheapest or least expensive product available.

Workers: workers want to keep their jobs and want to have good jobs and want to have a future and an opportunity for a job that pays well, with decent benefits.

Then there are the big thinkers. Those are the people who think they know more than all the rest of us. They understand that trade policy is simply called trade policy. Actually, they still want it to be foreign policy. Incidentally, some of those big thinkers were around last week. When the real debate about fast track got going, who rushed to Capitol Hill? The Secretary of State, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, came here because we still have some of those big thinkers who believe trade policy must inevitably be foreign policy in our country.

Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, ``The question is not where you stand but in what direction are you moving?'' You must always move, you must not drift or lie at anchor.

The question is, now that fast track has failed, what direction are we moving? What is our interest in trade? What can spark a national consensus on trade issues? What are the new goals?

First of all, I think most Americans would understand that we want our country to be a leader in trade. Our country should lead in the area of expanding world trade. Yet the real question is, how do we lead and where do we lead?

I think the starting point is this. We have the largest trade deficits in this country's history. Most Americans viscerally understand that. We have the largest trade deficits in our country's history, and they are getting worse, not better. We must do something about it.

We have specific and vexing trade problems that go unresolved. I have mentioned many times on the floor of the Senate the trade problem with Canada, which is not the largest problem we have. Yet, it is a huge problem for the people that it affects. I am talking about the flood of unfairly traded Canadian grain that is undercutting our farmers' interests.

I just got off the phone with a farmer an hour ago. He was calling from North Dakota. He said the price of grain is down, way down. He's trying to compete with terribly unfair imports coming in through his back door from a state trading enterprise which would be illegal in this country and are sold at secret prices.

Trade problems which go unresolved fester and infect, and that is what causes many in this country to have a sour feeling about this country's trade policy. Because of a range of these problems, this country does not have a consensus on trade policy, at least not a consensus that Congress should pass fast track.

Last weekend and early this week when fast track failed to get the needed votes to pass the Congress, there were people who almost had apoplectic seizures here in Washington, DC. They were falling over themselves, saying, ``Woe is America. What on Earth is going happen?''

Then we had countries in South America get into the act. I read in the paper that one of the countries in South America said, ``You know, if the United States can't have fast-track trade authority then we are going to have to negotiate with somebody else.''

Oh, really? Who are you going to negotiate with? Have you found a substitute for the American marketplace anywhere on the globe? Is there anywhere on Earth that a substitute for the American marketplace exists? Maybe you want to negotiate with Nigeria? How about Zambia? Zambia has a lower gross national product than the partners of Goldman Sachs have income. So go negotiate with Zambia.

Would our trading partners do us a favor, and not think the world is coming apart because we have not passed fast track? They need to understand that we want expanded trade. In the debate about trade we want to have embedded some notion about responsibilities. These are the responsibilities that we have as a country to decide that our trade policy must also reflect our values. These values are about the environment, about safe workplaces, about children working, about food safety and, yes, about human rights.

Does that mean we want to impose our values, imprint them, stamp them in every circumstance around the globe for a condition of trade? No. It does mean there is a bar at some point that we establish that says this minimum represents the set of values that we care about with respect to our trade relations.

Do we care if another country allows firms to hire 12-year-old kids, work them 12 hours a day and pay them 12 cents an hour and then ships these products to Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and Fargo? Yes, the consumer gets a cheaper product, but do we want 12-year-old kids working somewhere to produce it? Do we care that they compete with a company in this country that is unable to hire kids because this country is unwilling to let companies hire kids? We also say to these companies that they cannot dump chemicals into the air and into the water. We require a safe workplace. We require that a living wage be paid. At least we have minimum wage conditions.

We need to answer those questions. What really is fair trade? In whose interests do we fight for the set of values that we want for our future in our trade policies?

As we seek a new consensus on trade in this country, I hope that consensus will include the following goals:

First, it would be in this country's interest to end its chronic trade deficits. For 21 years in a row we have had chronic, nagging, growing trade deficits. I hope that as a goal we will decide that it is in this country's interest to end these trade deficits. Hopefully we would do it by increasing net exports from this country.

Second, we want more and better jobs in this country. That means our trade agreements ought to be designed to foster and improve job conditions in this country and living standards. As a part of that we need to require that our values are reflected in our trade policies, including our concerns about others who do not respect the rights of children and the environment.

Third, we need mandatory enforcement of trade agreements. Let us finally enforce the trade agreements we have made in the past. There are too many agreements that our trading partners are not abiding by. Let us not consign American producers and American workers to some wilderness out there facing vexing trade problems that cannot and will not be solved. Let's decide as a country, if an agreement is worth making, it is worth enforcing. Let us stand up to Canada, Mexico, China, and Japan and others and say, ``If you are going to have trade agreements with us, this country insists on its behalf and on behalf of its farmers, workers and employers that we are going to enforce trade agreements.''

Fourth, let us end the currency trap doors in trade agreements. When we make a trade agreement with some country and they devalue their currency, all the benefits of that trade agreement, and much, much more, are swept away in an instant.

Fifth, all trade agreements should relate to the question of whether they contribute to this country's national security.

These are the values that I think make sense for this country to discuss and consider as it tries to seek a new consensus on trade policy.

Once again, those who do the autopsies on failed public policies, including fast track during this last week, should not miss the cause of death. The reason fast track failed was because, as President Wilson once said, the murmur of public policy in this country comes not from this Chamber and not from the seats of learning in this town, but it comes from the factories and the farms and from the hills and the valleys of this country and from the homes of people who care about what happens to the economy of this country, and the economy of their State and their community.

They are the ones who evaluate whether public policy is in their interest or in this country's interest. They are the ones, after all, who decide what happens in this Chamber, because they are the ones who sent us here and the ones who asked us to provide the kind of leadership toward a system of trade and economic policy that will result in a better country.

Finally, Mr. President, I hope that as we discuss trade in the days ahead, it will be in a thoughtful, and not thoughtless, way. We do not need a discussion by those who say, ``Well, fast track is dead, the protectionists win.'' That is not what the vote was about. It is not what the issue was about, and it is not the way I think we will confront trade policies in the future.

I will conclude with one additional point. There is an op-ed piece in the New York Times today which I found most interesting. I ask unanimous consent to have this op-ed piece printed in the Record at the end of my remarks.

Sen. Conrad Burns

legislator photo

Without objection, it is so ordered.

(See Exhibit 1.)

Sen. Byron L. Dorgan

legislator photo

Mr. President, this is an op-ed piece by Thomas Friedman. I commend it to my colleagues. He talks about the new American politics and especially about fast-track trade authority. He said we have a trade debate among people divided into four categories:

The Integrationists: ``These are people who believe freer trade and integration are either inevitable or good, and they want to promote more trade agreements and Internet connections from one end of the world to the other, 24 hours a day.''

There are the Social Safety-Netters. ``These are people who believe that we need to package global integration with programs that will assist the `know-nots' and `have-nots.' ''

Then there are the Let-Them-Eat-Cakers. ``These are people who believe that globalization is winner-take-all, loser-take-care-of-yourself.

He provides an interesting statement of where he thinks all of the current key players in the debate find themselves.

Now everyone in the fast-track debate is in my matrix: Bill

Clinton is an Integrationist-Social-Safety-Netter. Newt

Gingrich is an Integrationist-Let-Them-Eat-Caker. Dick

Gephardt is a Separatist-Social-Safety-Netter and Ross Perot

is a Separatist-Let-Them-Eat-Caker.

If that piques your interest, I encourage you to look at this particular piece by Thomas Friedman in which he describes his interesting matrix of trade policy and the need to build a new consensus.

Finally, I want to say that what this country needs most at this point is to understand there is not now a consensus on trade policy. I say to the President and I say to the corporations and labor unions and the people in this country that it is time to develop a new consensus. I am interested, for one, in finding a way to bridge the gaps among all of the competing interests in trade to see if we might be able to weave a quilt of public policy that represents this country's best interest in advancing our economy and our American values.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

Exhibit 1


That's the most important lesson to come out of Monday's

decision by Congressional Democrats to reject President

Clinton's request for ``fast track'' authority to sign more

international free-trade agreements. I see a silver lining in

what Congress did, even though it was harebrained. Maybe now

at least the American public, and the business community,

will fully understand what politics is increasingly about in

this country, and will focus on which of America's four

parties they want to join.

Me, I'm an Integrationist-Social-Safety-Netter. How about


To figure out which party you're in let me again offer the

Friedman matrix of globalization politics. Take a piece of

paper and draw a line across the middle from east to west.

This is the globalization line, where you locate how you feel

about the way in which technology and open markets are

combining to integrate more and more of the world. At the far

right end of this line are the Integrationists. These are

people who believe that freer trade and integration are

either inevitable or good; they want to promote more trade

agreements and Internet connections from one end of the world

to the other, 24 hours a day.

Next go to the far left end of this line. These are the

Separatists. These are people who believe free trade and

technological integration are neither good nor inevitable;

they want to stop them in their tracks. So first locate

yourself somewhere on this line between Separatists and


Now draw another line from north to south through the

middle of the globalization line. This is the distribution

line. It defines what you believe should go along with

globalization to cushion its worst social, economic and

environmental impacts. At the southern end of this line are

the Social-Safety-Netters. These are people who believe that

we need to package global integration with programs that will

assist the ``know-nots'' and ``have-nots,'' who lack the

skills to take advantage of the new economy or who get caught

up in the job-churning that goes with globalization and are

unemployed or driven into poorer-paying jobs. The Safety-

Netters also want programs to improve labor and environmental

standards in developing countries rushing headlong into the

global economy.

At the northern tip of this distribution line are the Let-

Them-Eat-Cakers. These are people who believe that

globalization is winner-take-all, loser-take-care-of-


Now everyone in the fast-track debate is my matrix: Bill

Clinton is an Integrationist-Social-Safety-Netter. Newt

Gingrich is an Integrationist-Let-Them-Eat-Caker. Dick

Gephardt is a Separatist-Social-Safety-Netter and Ross Perot

is a Separatist-Let-Them-Eat-Caker. That's why Mr. Clinton

and Mr. Gingrich are allies on free trade but opponents on

social welfare, and why Mr. Gephardt and Mr. Perot are allies

against more free trade, but opponents on social welfare.

As I said, I'm an Integrationist-Social-Safety-Netter. I

believe that the technologies weaving the world more tightly

together cannot be stopped and the integration of markets can

only be reversed at a very, very high cost. Bill Clinton is

right about that and Dick Gephardt and the unions are wrong.

But Mr. Gephardt and the unions are right that

globalization is as creatively destructive as the earlier

versions of capitalism, which destroyed feudalism and

Communism. With all its positives, globalization does churn

new jobs and destroy old ones, it does widen gaps between

those with knowledge skills and those without them, it does

weaken bonds of community. And the Clinton team, the business

community and all the workers already benefiting from the

information economy never took these dark sides seriously


One hopes they now realize that this is one of the most

fundamental issues--maybe the most fundamental issue--in

American politics. You can't just give a speech about it one

month before they vote, you can't just have your company buy

an ad supporting it the day before you vote, you can't just

summon a constituency for it on the eve of the vote. You have

to build a real politics of Integrationist-Social-Safety-

Nettism--a politics that can show people the power and

potential of global integration, while taking seriously their

needs for safety nets to protect them along the way. Build it

and they will come.

Mr. GLENN addressed the Chair.

The Senator from Ohio.