Last week, we received word that a new round of so-called Free Trade Agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama will all be considered in rapid succession within days of one another this summer, perhaps even as soon as July. I’ve put out a warning to my colleagues and asked them to reconsider these harmful deals, reminding them of the great rush to pass similar, failed policies in our recent past. With budgets shrinking, debt soaring and all that Washington has on its plate, this is the wrong time to be in such a rush to set America’s working families and manufacturers at a further disadvantage.
Modeled after NAFTA and CAFTA, these trade deals follow the same model that has harmed us before. Even more alarming, the bills will be considered under “fast track authority,” meaning Congress will not be able to amend, change or correct these flawed agreements in any way. We’ve seen this kind of approach before, and it’s important that we remain vigilant in our opposition to any and all deals that aren’t right by the folks in our area.
No area knows the sad and harmful effects of NAFTA and CAFTA more than the folks right here at home. These bad trade deals saw our businesses shuttered, many of our mills closed, and our good living-wage paying jobs shipped elsewhere. We were sold a bill of goods by our elected officials, but they, and these plans, were severely misguided.
When it comes to the math behind the trade deals, the results simply just do not add up. When the U.S. entered into NAFTA, we had a trade surplus of $1.7 billion with Mexico. By 2010, this surplus had turned into a deficit of $68 billion. In 1993, our trade deficit with Canada was $11 billion. Today, that number has doubled.
We can no more trade our way to prosperity with these types of trade deals than we can spend our way out of debt. At a time when all of Washington should be focused on lifting up our small businesses to create jobs right here at home, it seems some would rather try to see just how fast we can export our American jobs to countries in Asia, Central America and South America. I will not sit idly by and let this happen.
Anyone who has visited my office will know that I’ve hung several of my favorite quotations on the wall, the very same signs that once occupied the walls of my classroom in my days as a civics teacher. One of those quotes reads: “Insanity is expecting different results, while continuing to do the same things.” I think it’s beyond time that folks in Washington started to heed that logic.
Americans are hurting. The sacrifice is falling almost entirely on our working families. Instead of coming together and creating a national manufacturing strategy or promoting tax incentives for companies to keep and create jobs here in the United States, folks in Washington are reverting to failed cookie cutter NAFTA free trade deals and devoting a mid-summer marathon session to hastily rush them all through.
At the very same time, we’re seeing Big Oil continue to cash in record profits as unemployment remains hovering at dangerously high rates from coast-to-coast. Implementing policies and embracing mentalities that perpetuate the very problems that exist will not lead us to a single solution. This follows the very definition of insanity.
We’ve seen what happened to our nation in the wake of the deals of our past. We here at home have seen what it did to our local economy, to our friends and neighbors, and to our families. When we talk about our recent time on the brink of a Recession, we know all too well that our area specifically was already hurting long before the rest of the country. No area or people should ever have to endure such trying times—especially not us.
That is why I’m committed to standing up against these issues that are completely wrong for our district. This isn’t about party or politics or any of the other powers that be in Washington. We need a system that is fair to our small businesses, fair to our workers, and fair to our working families. We cannot begin each day on the road to recovery by binding our industries to the decided disadvantages in global markets that these deals will undoubtedly create.
I will vote against all three of these pending Free Trade Agreements. Until we have trade deals that level the playing field, they will remain wrong for our district and our nation. We are still a nation of industrialists, and I believe in the ingenuity of our citizens and the hard work of those who clock in day in and day out to keep our country great. I will not use my vote in Congress to support such a direct affront to the American worker and working families.