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Testimony of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch House Ways and Means Committee Hearing on the Pending Free Trade Agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia

By Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch

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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit public interest organization with 150,000 members and supporters that champions citizen interests before Congress, the executive branch agencies and the courts. We thank Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), Trade Subcommittee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas), Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-Mich.) and Trade Subcommittee Ranking Member Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) for the opportunity to testify for the record on the proposed trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia.

Government and independent estimates show that approval of any of these trade agreements, which replicate many terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), will be a net negative for U.S. jobs, our economy, reining in Wall Street abuses, and the environment. Moreover, they will open a wide range of routine public interest policies to attack outside of the U.S. court system, where multinational corporations will be empowered to make claims on taxpayer funds for measures that interfere with investors’ expectations or future expected profits. At a time of high unemployment, it would be politically perilous for any member of Congress to vote for any NAFTA-style trade deal that is expected to kill jobs, much less the most economically significant one since NAFTA.

This testimony will focus primarily on the U.S.-Korea “free trade agreement” (FTA), which is projected to cost American jobs, and which the government’s own estimates suggest will increase the U.S. global trade deficit. But the NAFTA-style deals with Colombia and Panama are virtually identical, and have their own special problems, which we address at the end of the testimony.