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WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) made the following statement today on the House Floor regarding H.R. 3045, the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act:
“I have been a strong advocate for free trade and open markets because I believe that American businesses and workers can compete and win in the global economy. Furthermore, I believe that increasing global interdependence is an undeniable reality in the 21st century, which presents our nation an opportunity to promote democratic reform, the rule of law and respect for basic human rights.
“The United States is the most powerful nation in the world - militarily, politically, and economically. And it is incumbent upon us to lead, to foster global trade, to engage our partners in a system based on rules and law, and to work to raise the living standards of working men and women - not to recoil from the rest of the world.
“However, the centrality of free trade in our interdependent world cannot, and must not, relegate our commitment to working men and women in this country and elsewhere to the periphery. In short, we must seek to provide a level playing field for American workers and improved living and working conditions for foreign workers by striving to ensure fair wages and basic workplace protections. I have consistently supported legislation and trade agreements that have furthered these goals.
“I was hopeful the Bush Administration would pursue these objectives in negotiating the Central American Free Trade Agreement, and that we would ultimately be presented a trade agreement, like others I have recently supported, that advanced the cause of free trade, promoted the rule of law, generated economic development of countries in great need, and extended to U.S. workers, farmers and businesses the advantages of expanded access to new markets.
“Regrettably, the Administration has failed to negotiate an agreement that meets these basic goals. Specifically, the CAFTA agreement fails to ensure the implementation and enforcement in the signatory countries’ own domestic laws of the five core internationally-recognized labor rights: the rights of association and collective bargaining; and bans on child labor, slave labor and discrimination in employment. Compounding the problem is the failure to allow trade sanctions to enforce even these modest labor provisions.
“Making this agreement more disappointing is that the Administration disregarded repeated encouragement from the House Democratic leadership to take advantage of the opportunity presented by CAFTA not only to enhance economic growth in the region, but also to establish a new and more balanced dynamic between workers and employers in those Central American countries.
“I am unable to support this legislation to implement the Central American Free Trade Agreement for its failure to guarantee basic workplace protections for Central Americans and a level playing field for American workers.”