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The Pending Free Trade Agreements With Korea, Panama, And Colombia

The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from Ohio (Ms. Kaptur) for 5 minutes.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur

legislator photo

Madam Speaker, let me ask Congress, where are you?

America's trade policy is operating as if we were still in the last century instead of the 21st. Time and again, this Congress keeps failing to grasp reality and learn from past failures. Instead, Congress keeps doing more of the same failed approach.

Now, this administration has pledged to soon submit another so-called free trade agreement, this time with Korea. There are even some in Congress who are demanding the President attach no-win agreements to Panama and Colombia at the same time. All of these agreements fail to put America in a position to win economically by creating jobs here in our country.

I want to remind my colleagues that these agreements are nothing more than expansions of the same failed trade policies established by NAFTA. Think about China too. Ever since those two agreements were signed, we have never had a single balanced trade agreement with those countries. These same approaches racked up another half-trillion-dollar trade deficit last year alone and all the lost jobs across our country that were outsourced as a result.

I can assure you that our trade deficits are not getting any better as a result. Year after year, the numbers tell the same story: More job loss resulting from unbalanced trade agreements. America needs reciprocity and balance and equal access to foreign markets, not surrender. Haven't the working people of America paid a high enough price yet with the diminishment of their livelihoods, loss of home values, uprooting of their families, outsourcing of their jobs, collapsed school systems, and constant worry about a more secure future? This is a fight about who is taking away those economic opportunities drop by drop here at home and how we stop the hemorrhage.

More extremist free trade agreements have given us the kind of world we inherited after NAFTA. They told us it would create millions of jobs. Instead, we have seen the manufacturing sector decimated with over 8 million lost jobs. Estimates on the number of jobs lost directly just due to NAFTA with Mexico and Canada are in the millions. Over a third of all manufacturing jobs in the United States have disappeared and been outsourced since its passage.

Our trade deficit with Mexico last year alone was over $66 billion in the red. That means hundreds of thousands of pink slips in our country. And for what? The Mexican people live in greater misery, while their wealthy have become even wealthier since NAFTA's passage. This is not a recipe for continental stability.

When Most Favored Nation status for China was rammed through here at the end of the 1990s, proponents said it would create jobs across our country. Since then, America has amassed a $2 trillion cumulative trade deficit with China--trillion--and hundreds of thousands more pink slips in our country, including in the so-called green energy sector, and more loss of production here as China demands businesses set up shop there to do business at all and then gives vast tax holidays. And there is liberty there? No, there is Communism. America and Congress, where are you?

Next up, free trade extremists want us to pass more of the same, more of the same failed approach, by adding Korea. In the first month of this year alone, America already had racked up a $1 billion trade deficit with South Korea, and that market restricts our goods already. There is no real reciprocity. We will be lucky if we can sell 75,000 cars there under this proposed agreement. That is not going to happen, because it is not guaranteed in the agreement, yet Korea already sells nearly half a million cars here. How is this fair? How is it reciprocal? How does it hold a promise of balance, not deficit?

Then there is the potential for another trade agreement with Panama. The GAO has identified Panama as a major haven for tax avoidance. In fact, Panama is one of the most popular destinations for multinational firms to create subsidiaries, many of which exist only to help them avoid paying their fair share of taxes here in our country. Why further empty out our country? Why do we do this?

Finally, there is Colombia; Colombia, the most dangerous country in the world if you care about labor rights. Since the 1990s, over 2,000 trade unionists have been assassinated in Colombia, and in the vast majority of cases there has been no justice for the victims and their families. How can America reward this? Why should Americans lose more of their jobs for this?

When America's trade agreements have failed so vastly and cost us millions of jobs, and we haven't had balanced trade accounts in over a quarter century and our standard of living is headed down, we simply can't afford any more of these losing trade agreements. We ought to go back and renegotiate the ones that aren't working for us now. It is time for a new trade model for our country that benefits our workers and our communities for a change. America simply can't afford another NAFTA that is called Korea.