U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) made the following statement today concerning his opposition to the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA):
“Trade is an important component of international relations and development, particularly to Washington State. We must craft a trade policy that provides American workers and businesses with real opportunity to grow and that strengthens our economy. Time and again, the Bush Administration has failed to promote an economic competitiveness policy and it is our businesses and workers who will be hurt. The Bush Administration’s most recent trade agreement, the Dominican Republic – Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), does not balance the needs of American workers and companies, nor the needs of the nations with which we trade. It is for the reasons below that I will oppose this agreement on the Floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Bush Administration’s fiscal irresponsibility -- including its misguided philosophy on spending and tax cuts -- has undermined our ability to invest in education and skills training that are desperately needed in this country. Domestically, the President has not done enough to help American workers retrain and compete on the international stage. Too often, the Administration, under President Bush, has chosen economic policies that damage our ability to have a sound policy on trade. For example, we must take strong steps forward with investment in research and development programs that allow government to partner with universities and businesses to spur innovation. The Administration’s massive tax cuts have undermined our ability to empower Americans to further their education and skills training. I am deeply dismayed that they have pursued policies that leave many workers who qualify for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) benefits without access to the program simply because the Administration either can’t or won’t provide adequate funding. If this failure to invest in TAA and other critical domestic workforce programs can be said to be a problem now, it will only get worse if the Bush tax cuts are made permanent. We cannot stand by quietly as the Administration’s fiscal irresponsibility continues to undercut necessary domestic investments.
Globally, through its trade policy, the Administration has done little to help workers overseas. With CAFTA, an opportunity has been missed to put forward an agreement that balances the need to open global markets to American workers and businesses and promotes growth and stability overseas. As negotiated by the Bush Administration, CAFTA actually weakens the existing workers’ protections currently available under the United States’ existing trade preference programs with the region. Similarly, on environmental protection, rural development and public health, this agreement falls short. While CAFTA rightly includes protections for the intellectual property rights that are so important to our region, the Administration failed to take such a serious approach on workers’ rights and environmental protections.
CAFTA and indeed many of the Administration’s economic policies falls far short of creating a cohesive and comprehensive policy on trade.”