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Daniel K.

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  • The Trans-Pacific Partnership

    by Representative Daniel T. Kildee

    Posted on 2015-01-08

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    KILDEE. First of all, thank you to my colleague, Mr. Pocan, for his leadership on this and for yielding.



    Mr. Speaker, this is a really important subject for the American people. It is a really important subject for the people that I represent in Flint, Michigan, in Saginaw, Michigan, Bay City.

    You mentioned Flint. It is my hometown. I was born and raised there. September 16, 1908, General Motors was incorporated in Flint, Michigan, and it was a company that brought together carriage-makers and wheel- makers, and they put the world on wheels.

    About 30 years later, the workers in that city at General Motors organized and got the first UAW contract. Between the auto industry itself and the organized workers who were able to then claim their fair share of the tremendous wealth generated by their productive capacity, we built the American middle class. We built an amazing society that gives opportunity, gave opportunity, I think, to just about anybody who felt they could work hard and would put in the time and get a fair wage and get decent benefits and be able to go to work with some dignity.

    {time} 1645 We built something that was truly amazing.

    It was not that long ago, because of globalization and because of trade deals like the one that is being considered right now, that the Federal Government, rightfully, and this President, rightfully, stood up for the American auto industry and put it back on its feet. They gave the American autoworker--the American worker--the chance to reclaim that dignity that so many people fought for even decades ago.

    What I worry about is that everything that those people worked and fought for could go away. In fact, even the great work that this President did to rescue the American auto industry could all be for naught if we continue down this path of pursuing trade policy that puts corporate and stockholder and offshore interests, really, in front of the interests of the American people and the American worker.

    My hometown has seen this play itself out. I remember--I was in local government--when the North American Free Trade Agreement was adopted. We keep hearing that the agreement that is being contemplated right now is a vastly different sort of agreement, but we don't see that. What we do hear and see is the very same language and the very same rhetoric and the very same explanations or excuses about the need to grant Fast Track authority to negotiate this agreement and bring it back to Congress for a ``yes'' or ``no'' vote. The same arguments that are being made now were being made then, and the people whom I represent truly believed that they were sold a bill of goods.

    At one point in time, in my hometown of Flint, Michigan, we had 79,000 autoworkers. This was a city that was never more than 200,000 in population, so this is a city that really grew up around American manufacturing. It was direct GM employees, but it was suppliers and a whole community built around this incredible productive capacity that started over a century ago; but in just a few short years, we have gone from that 79,000 number to about 10,000 autoworkers in my hometown.

    When I think about trade and these trade deals, it is not a question of sort of the big geopolitical tensions that we are trying to address. It is not even a matter of this kind of esoteric argument about the philosophy of trade policy. It is about Flint and Saginaw and Bay City, Michigan, families who have worked hard their whole lives and who stand to lose everything because we are continuing to pursue trade policy that thinks about the short-term profits of multinational corporations and not about strengthening the long-term integrity of the American middle class. This is a dangerous path that we are on.

    What is particularly concerning to me is that, when I go home, as I do--as you all do--we get questions about this.

    The questions are: ``We keep hearing that this trade agreement will have a high standard, a high set of standards, and that it will not be like past agreements.'' Even some here in Washington have said that we are fighting old battles and that this is a new day. Yet, when I have to answer to my constituents' questions like: ``Will these agreements have environmental protections and enforcement mechanisms for those environmental standards unlike some previous agreements?'' I have to say, ``I don't really know because we don't have access to the documents. We don't have access to the process. We haven't been asked to weigh in.'' [[Page H144]] ``Will the agreements have labor standards that guarantee that American workers won't have to compete with nations that outlaw labor unions?'' for example.

    ``I don't know because we have not seen that language.'' We are being asked to accept on faith that, somehow, miraculously, this trade agreement is going to look dramatically different than others, even of those that have been fairly recently passed.

    Finally, I am asked, ``Will there be protections to keep other nations from manipulating their currency?'' No matter what else is in any of these trade agreements, if currency can be manipulated to a point so that the price of one nation's exports makes it impossible for us to compete with them, all is lost.

    From what we hear, there will be no currency provisions or at least, if there are any at all, they certainly won't be strong enough to have any influence whatsoever on the ability of these nations to undermine the American economy by dumping goods, by manipulating currency in a fashion that makes it impossible for us to compete.

    This is the wrong track for this country. It is something for which Congress needs to stand up and assert its constitutional role in defending. I stand with my colleagues, and I know many, many others who simply are not going to sit idly by no matter who the President is--a Democrat, a Republican, or otherwise--and allow the prerogatives of Congress, which means the prerogatives of the people who sent us here, to be overlooked. It would be a dangerous path for us to take, and I am very grateful to my friend Mr. Pocan for his leadership and for the leadership of many others here on this issue.

    I am glad to stand with you in fighting this battle.

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