Last-Minute CAFTA Vote Predicted to Shape 2006 Rematch of Close Gerlach Re-election Fight; Public Citizen Launches CAFTA Damage Report to Track Results of Misguided CAFTA Votes
By Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Abandoning a long record of championing smart-growth and pro-conservation land use policies, and snubbing Pennsylvania’s working families and small farmers, Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) became a deciding “yes” vote for the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). CAFTA eked through the House of Representatives 217 to 215; had Gerlach voted no, the agreement would have been rejected with a 216-216 tie vote.
Constituents in Pennsylvania’s 6th District, a closely watched and contested electoral swing district, are wondering why Gerlach, whose home state has lost nearly a quarter of its manufacturing jobs since NAFTA, would vote to extend NAFTA to six additional countries. Pennsylvania’s 6th district alone, which encompasses the counties of Berks, Chester, Lehigh and Montgomery, had more than 1,200 workers certified as NAFTA job loss casualties under just one narrow U.S. Labor Department Trade Adjustment Assistance program. Yet, in a letter to a constituent explaining his pro-CAFTA vote, Gerlach argued that “Pennsylvania businesses and industries stand to benefit tremendously from the implementation of this trade agreement.”2
In fact, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC), the official and bipartisan source for trade projections of the U.S. government, the U.S. trade deficit with the CAFTA target countries will increase by $100 million once the agreement is fully phased in. Policies that increase the U.S. trade deficit with other countries results in a reduction in output (gross domestic product), and therefore of employment. The non-partisan Economic Policy Institute estimates that the 538 percent growth in the U.S. trade deficit with NAFTA countries over 1993-2004 accounted for more than 1 million net U.S. jobs lost, with 44,173 net jobs in Pennsylvania alone. So while some U.S. companies may export more to Central America under CAFTA, the United States as a whole is projected to lose jobs to Central America. Given that CAFTA simply expands the NAFTA model of trade under which Pennsylvania faced a disproportionate share of job losses, the prospects for gains from CAFTA for Pennsylvania are nonexistent, while more job losses are expected.