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As WTO Ministerial Begins in Geneva, Senators Announce Initiative to Address Deficit, Strengthen U.S. Economy

WASHINGTON, DC – Marking the ten-year anniversary of the World Trade Organization (WTO) demonstrations in Seattle and this week’s WTO ministerial in Geneva, Switzerland, seven U.S. Senators today announced the formal introduction of the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment (TRADE) Act. First sponsored in 2008 by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), the legislation is also sponsored by Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

The legislation would revamp U.S. trade policy by mandating trade pact reviews, establishing higher standards, protecting workers in developing nations and restoring Congressional oversight of future trade agreements. The bill would mandate trade pact reviews, establish standards, protect workers in developing nations and would help restore Congressional oversight of future trade agreements.

“We want trade and we want more of it. But, we need a new direction,” Sen. Brown said. “Done wrong, trade sends our jobs overseas. Done right, trade can foster new business and job growth at home, and can lift up workers in developing nations. The TRADE ACT will help Congress and the White House craft a trade policy that benefits workers, business owners, and our nation.”

“I’m in favor of trade and plenty of it, but our current trade agreements have led to record trade deficits,” Sen. Dorgan said. “It is long past the time to take the steps to improve our trade agreements and strengthen the American economy.”

“The trade policies of the last two decades greatly contributed to the tough times Wisconsin businesses and families now face,” Sen. Feingold said.  “Trade agreements like NAFTA, CAFTA and others that don’t require our partners to abide by fair labor, environmental, safety and health standards created a race to the bottom and helped ship millions of family-supporting jobs overseas.   We need to enact trade policies that are fair and stem the flow of good jobs from Wisconsin to places like China.  It’s time that our trade agreements look out for American businesses, workers, consumers, family farmers and the environment rather than multi-national corporate interests.”

“As a result of our disastrous trade policy, millions of decent jobs have been shipped overseas, turning American jobs into our number one export,” Sen. Sanders said. “We need to do everything possible to reverse this trend and develop a new trade policy that reduces our record-breaking trade deficit and increases American jobs. The TRADE Act is an important step in meeting this important goal and I applaud Sen. Brown for introducing this bill.”

“The tough economic climate only serves to reinforce the need to reexamine our trade policy,” Sen. Casey said.  “Pennsylvania has lost over 200,000 manufacturing jobs in the last decade; losses that I attribute to provisions of certain trade agreements.  Moving forward, we need trade policies that help, not hurt, our workforce.  I believe the TRADE Act sets Congress and our Nation on the path towards meaningful reform.” 

“We need fair trade policies that give our workers a fair shake,” Sen. Merkley said.  “We must reevaluate the trade agreements that leave hardworking Americans behind by encouraging companies to ship jobs overseas.  Instead, we should take real steps toward developing smart trade policies that create opportunity for our workers and benefit our economy.” 

This year alone, 198,258 jobs have been lost across the country due to trade related issues.

The TRADE ACT would:
•    Require the Government Accountability Office to conduct a comprehensive review of existing trade agreements with an emphasis on economic results, enforcement and compliance and an analysis of non-tariff provisions in trade agreements;
•    Spell out standards for labor and environmental protections, food and product safety, national security exceptions and remedies that must be included in new trade pacts;
•    Set requirements with respect to public services, farm policy, investment, government procurement and affordable medicines that have been incorporated in trade agreements;
•    Require the president to submit renegotiation plans for current trade pacts prior to negotiating new agreements and prior to congressional consideration of pending agreements; and
•    Restore Congressional oversight of trade agreements.