Early this morning, the House of Representatives passed legislation to provide Trade Promotion Authority and expand health care and unemployment assistance to workers dislocated by global competition.  For the first time ever, Trade Adjustment Assistance includes a new health care benefit for laid-off workers and doubles funding for job training.  The trade package also extends eligibility for both health care and job training to “downstream” workers - for example, suppliers to factories that have shut down - and workers whose factories have relocated overseas.  The following is a statement by Congressman Adam Smith: 

“There are two statistics related to trade that stand out in my mind.  First, 96 percent of people live someplace other than the United States.  Second, despite comprising only four percent of the world’s population, the United States is still responsible for 20 percent of the world’s consumption.  If we wish to expand and grow our participation in developing global markets, we need to gain access to those markets. 

“What’s more, for the first time ever, this bill puts environment and labor concerns on par with other negotiating objectives.  That is a big step forward from the legislation that was passed in 1997, which prohibited labor and environment from being a part of trade agreements.  

“70 percent of world ranks below us in labor and environmental standards.  Does that mean we’re not going to trade with them, that we’re not going to interact with them?  That we’ll erect a protectionist barrier?  The only way to make improvements in global standards and to secure global stability is to move forward and interact with foreign markets.  Without the ability to negotiate reduced tariff barriers to other countries we cannot move forward.  

“I opposed the original version of trade promotion authority because nothing was done to help American workers.  I’m very pleased that the U.S. Senate successfully added many provisions to improve the bill, most notably the addition of Trade Adjustment Assistance.

“In today's economy, workers need to update their skills constantly.  This bill triples the assistance available to laid-off workers through the Trade Adjustment Assistance program.  For the first time ever, there will be a health care benefit to offset the high cost of health care premiums.  Funding for job training is doubled.  Undoubtedly, this is an extremely solid worker benefit package that will help tens of thousands of laid-off workers take care of their families and update their skills so that they can succeed in the 21st century economy.

“Passage of Trade Promotion Authority is just the first step.  As Congress and the White House work together on a trade agenda that advances our foreign policy goals, strengthens American's economy and provides opportunity to America’s workers, we need to push other countries to improve their labor and environmental standards and help give them the tools to do so.  We need to ensure that future trade agreements don’t put environmental and health regulations at risk.  We need to open overseas markets to American goods and services.  I am committed to working constructively to advance all of these goals in the coming years.”

For more information on Congressman Adam Smith’s position on Trade Promotion Authority and Trade Adjustment Assistance, visit www.house.gov/adamsmith.