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Sutton: The American People are counting on this new Congress

Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio) reminds Congress:

The American people are counting on this new Congress to finally address the devastation of our failed trade policies and soaring trade deficit by developing a new trade model that will no longer leave American businesses and workers at a disadvantage. They are counting on us to enact a trade model that will not reward companies who move overseas or encourage them to outsource jobs and our future. They are counting on us to develop a trade model that will put an enforceable end to illegal subsidies and currency manipulation. They are counting on us to develop a trade model that will provide incentives to help our businesses and workers and our communities thrive. They are counting on us to develop a trade model that requires reciprocity of market access and ensures greater safety of products produced elsewhere and consumed here.

Read the full statement after the jump.

Congresswoman Betty Sutton

Representing Ohio's Thirteenth Congressional District

To Make Trade Work, We Need Real Change

Statement of Congresswoman Betty Sutton

"Last November, the American people cast their votes to put an end to the flawed trade model that has had a devastating impact on our families, businesses, workers, farmers and communities. Last week, an announcement was made that the U.S. will require the inclusion of labor and environmental standards in the pending Peru and Panama Free Trade Agreements. This is welcome news and is a direct response to the election and the unyielding diligence of many of us who have been dedicated to fighting for the inclusion of strong labor and environmental standards for years.

While it is encouraging that the deal seemingly provides for the possibility of stronger labor and environmental standards in these two U.S. trade agreements, any enforceability of those provisions is dependent on the Bush Administration and, given its abominable record, you can be certain that enforcement will not happen.

In 2000, Congress passed a Free Trade Agreement with Jordan. This Agreement had the support of many members committed to "fair trade" because it included labor and environmental standards; however, there has been no enforcement of those labor standards even though documented violations have been extreme. There is no reason to believe that the same result will not prove true with the pending FTAs even if they contain similar standards.

My constituents and people across this country voted for a much greater change in direction on trade than simply including labor and environmental standards, which won't be enforced into our trade agreements. The American people cast their votes for a new majority in both the House and Senate, hoping that we would help strengthen the shrinking middle class and restore the American Dream that has been off-shored due to the harmful trade agreements and the unfair trade practices that have persisted for more than a decade.

The American people are counting on this new Congress to finally address the devastation of our failed trade policies and soaring trade deficit by developing a new trade model that will no longer leave American businesses and workers at a disadvantage. They are counting on us to enact a trade model that will not reward companies who move overseas or encourage them to outsource jobs and our future. They are counting on us to develop a trade model that will put an enforceable end to illegal subsidies and currency manipulation. They are counting on us to develop a trade model that will provide incentives to help our businesses and workers and our communities thrive. They are counting on us to develop a trade model that requires reciprocity of market access and ensures greater safety of products produced elsewhere and consumed here.

The American people are counting on the Democratic Majority to provide a trade model that will truly allow for fair competition, because we know that if given a fair playing field we will excel in the global marketplace. This is not about being "pro-trade" or "anti-trade." It is about the "rules of trade" and making sure that they are fair and enforceable. The American people want nothing more and they deserve nothing less. I am committed to continuing the fight to deliver to the American people a truly new trade model that is fair and under which we will prosper.

With respect to any of the pending Panama and Peru FTAs, which represent only minute portions of trade with the U.S., I have yet to see them and will reserve judgment. However, it should be understood that Congress must reclaim its Constitutional authority and responsibility over trade and not continue down the path of ceding its responsibility to the President. It is our job to ensure a vibrant and fair trade policy. We must focus our attention on that task before it is too late. My home state of Ohio has lost over 200,000 manufacturing jobs since 2001. That means a lot of families are suffering. They need a new trade model now. The inclusion of labor and environmental standards in trade agreements is progress, but our responsibility and the country's need are much greater than that. We must develop a new trade model that is enforceable and comprehensive...and we must do it immediately to keep faith with the American people."

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