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Labor-Backed Legislation Would
Revamp Trade Policy

June 5, 2008

Since NAFTA was passed in 1994, free trade agreements have cost the United States more than 1 million good-paying jobs, driven down global working and environmental standards and racked up a record federal trade deficit.

“Our current (trade) system has not worked, has not met past promises and has not served the interests of a majority of people across our country,” said Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine).

But a new trade bill introduced in Congress on June 4 could change that. The Trade, Accountability, Development and Employment Act, introduced by Michaud, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) and Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) would mandate a review of existing trade agreements, set strict labor and environmental standards for future ones and restore congressional oversight over trade policy.

“The TRADE Act, based on the principles of fair trade, will help make trade work for all of us, not just multinational corporations,” said International President Edwin D. Hill.

More than 20 labor, faith, environmental and consumer organizations have backed the legislation. 

“The current trade model has decimated American jobs and resulted in contaminated and sometimes deadly, defective imports because not enough emphasis was placed on these policy areas,” Sanchez said.

Rep. Sanchez is a member of Santa Ana, Calif., IBEW Local 441.

In addition to revamping labor protections, the act would require the president to submit renegotiation plans for current trade pacts before negotiating any new agreements.

“Trade done right means new jobs and new industry at home – and means lifting up workers in developing nations,” Brown said.

“This bill is a blueprint for a trading system that will build up, not tear down, our middle class and economy, while protecting the rights of working people everywhere,” Hill said.