Mr. Speaker, in this debate tonight, it's almost like we're having two conversations. There's the conversation about the trade agreement and there is the conversation about larger economic issues, from environment to jobs to a whole lot of other issues.
On the Peru Free Trade Agreement, Mr. Rangel and the Ways and Means Committee have done a great job of putting together a good agreement. It negotiates a reduction in tariffs and nontariff barriers to help us economically, and they've also added in labor protection, which we never got. I voted personally against CAFTA because they hadn't been included. As Mr. Davis just said, those agreements are exactly what those of us in the Democratic side of the aisle have been asking for for a long time.
But the issues that are raised tonight are about the economic challenges in this country, about jobs lost and transitions. And I totally agree with the people who raised those issues, that those are important issues and incredibly difficult challenges for middle-class workers in this country and for the working poor that we have not addressed.
Where I disagree with them is the convenient take of simply blaming trade agreements for that. Trade agreements simply reduce tariffs and nontariff barriers so that the cost of doing business goes down.
Now, if we have made any mistake on the pro-trade side of the aisle, it's overselling that. It's presenting it as a panacea that will grow the economy and benefit everyone and cause no pain. They can't solve that problem. The trade agreement can't solve all of the challenges that are presented for poor workers throughout the world. It's a step forward.
We have lost jobs in this country because of global competition and technology primarily, not because of trade. The rest of the world stepped up and decided to participate in the economy. China, the former Soviet Union, countries that were never there before, now they're there. They're competing and we're losing jobs.
But it is a mistake both to blame trade and to not focus on the issues that could actually help: health care, a fairer tax policy, issues I know that the chairman is working on, issues that would actually help workers in this country instead of laying it all at the feet of the Peru Free Trade Agreement, an agreement that simply reduces tariff and nontariff barriers to free up the flow of goods and help grow the economy.
It's a good agreement, and we should support it.