Senator Harkin on the Free Trade Agreements

Harkin at Dubuque Chamber of Commerce

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today issued the following statement as the U.S. Senate considers trade agreements with Korea, Columbia and Panama.

“I took many aspects of these trade agreements and their impact on my home state of Iowa into account as I decided my vote on these proposals. I understand that there are important provisions that could reduce or eliminate obstacles to increase exports of Iowa agricultural products, manufactured goods and services offered by Iowa businesses. I listened intently to those who favor these agreements as the next step in expanding the export market for pork, beef, grain, agricultural and advanced manufacturing products. But after much consideration, I cannot support these trade agreements.

“History shows that the impact of various trade agreements is not experienced equally. Over the last 30 years, as America’s trade deficit has surged to over $500 billion in 2010, our manufacturing sector has been decimated. Iowans have felt these effects as much as other areas of the industrial heartland. As manufacturing has declined, so have the good middle class jobs that form the backbone of Iowa’s economy and the foundation of our middle class.

“Right now, rebuilding the American middle class should be Congress’s number one priority. Unfortunately, when judged against this benchmark, these trade agreements do not measure up. For example, the International Trade Commission’s report on the Korea agreement indicates that the net effect will be to increase our trade deficit with that country. Every dollar that we send abroad through a higher trade deficit is a lost opportunity to invest here at home in the products and industries we need to rebuild our economy and create good, middle class jobs.

“I firmly believe that American workers make the best products in the world, and I cannot support an agreement that would further endanger the American manufacturing industry and its workers. And I would also vehemently oppose any agreement that puts American workers in greater competition with countries like Columbia that have low wages, poor working conditions and a record of manifest disregard for workers’ rights. Instead of participating in this race to the bottom, we must support policies that create a level playing field for American companies that play by the rules and treat their workers with dignity and respect.

“I have voted for Free Trade Agreements in the past, and I would welcome the opportunity to do so again in the future, provided that they are fair agreements that better protect the interests of U.S. workers and the American economy. Despite providing some important benefits, particularly in these tough economic times, these agreements do not meet that test.”

[Editor’s Note: Braley, Loebsack, Boswell and Harkin voted against the free trade agreements, Grassley, Latham and King voted for them.]

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