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House Democrats Unveil 'New Trade Policy For America'

by Leroy Baker,, New York

30 March 2007

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY), and Trade Subcommittee Chairman Sander Levin (D-MI), have unveiled 'A New Trade Policy for America', which they claim will improve pending free trade agreements and allow for bipartisan support in the House.

“We are on the brink of restoring bipartisanship to American trade policy,” said Rangel. “The policies we’ve outlined today should send a clear message that this Congress wants trade, but we want trade that works for all Americans.”

“We must use trade as a tool to shape globalization and spread its benefits more broadly,” urged Levin. “Congress, and this Democratic Majority, is reasserting its constitutional authority to stand up for US businesses, workers, and farmers in the global marketplace.”

Specifically, the policy calls for the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to:

  • Require countries to adopt, maintain and enforce basic international labor standards in their domestic laws and practices – not merely “enforce their own laws.”
  • Promote sustainable development and combat global warming by requiring countries to implement and enforce common Multilateral Environmental Agreements, and address illegal logging of mahogany in Peru.
  • Re-establish a fair balance between promoting access to medicines in developing countries and protecting pharmaceutical innovation.
  • Promote US national security by protecting operations at US ports.
  • Ensure that trade agreement accords “no greater rights” to foreign investors in the US than to US investors.

The proposal also puts these pending FTA issues into the broader context and addresses a number of other key issues, including the pending negotiations with South Korea, the Congressmen said.

The House trade proposals were welcomed by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) who said that said the suggested changes to environmental and labor provisions in pending free trade agreements can help US trade initiatives move forward in a way that supports American workers and stands up for American jobs.

“I commend Chairman Rangel for his hard work in creating a package that seeks to address Americans’ key trade concerns, especially relating to labor and the environment. I will have to study the details closely, but I think this framework forms a basis on which we can all agree,” stated Baucus.

The Bush administration must notify Congress of its intent to sign pending free trade agreements with Korea and Panama by March 31. The United States has already signed free trade agreements with Peru and Colombia.

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