June 24, 2009
TRADE Act Provides Road Map to Rebuild American Consensus for Trade Expansion
Statement of Lori Wallach, Director, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch Division
The Trade Reform Accountability Development and Employment (TRADE) Act delivers on the broad public expectation that Congress and the president will forge a new trade policy that creates jobs, ensures import safety and fixes past damaging agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), as they have promised.
That this trade reform agenda is supported by more than 100 House members, including nine full committee chairs, 45 subcommittee chairs and the full range of Democratic caucuses and geography, is a promising sign for the prospect of our country creating a new trade agenda. This legislation, introduced today, translates into action the specific commitments for trade reform made by many members of Congress over the past two election cycles and by President Obama during his campaign.
The bill’s provisions regarding what must and must not be in American trade agreements will look very familiar to campaign junkies, as they capture the reforms promised in the 2008 Democratic platform and the campaign commitments made by President Obama and the 71 House and Senate members elected in 2006 and 2008 who replaced those who had voted for NAFTA and the World Trade Organization (WTO).
By moving Congress and the public beyond the rut of repeated fights against more-of-the-same trade pacts, the TRADE Act can help avoid the divisiveness and political fallout that such fights invariably bring.
This legislation offers the White House a path around an ocean of political quicksand because it is a road map for trade expansion that Democrats could support with fixes for the key conflicts between the current NAFTA-style trade pacts and the Democrats’ core agenda.
The premise of the TRADE Act is that America’s trade agenda must be brought into conformity with America’s domestic agenda of good jobs, a clean environment, safe food, quality and affordable medicines, and essential services. By removing provisions that limit imported food and product safety and financial service regulation, provide foreign investors with rights to attack domestic environmental and health laws, and incentivize the offshoring of jobs to low-wage countries – and adding effective labor, environmental, health and safety standards to provide the floor of decency necessary to ensuring trade agreements benefit more people – the road map provided by the TRADE Act would lead to trade agreements that could enjoy broad public support.