Progressive Dems Break with Trade Consensus; Demand a Change of Course

Michaud, Brown Call for Review of Trade Agreements
Associated Press

Rep. Michael Michaud of Maine and Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, both Democrats, introduced legislation Wednesday to put the brakes on trade agreements by triggering a review of existing agreements as well as providing a process for renegotiating them. more stories like this

The "Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment TRADE Act" aims to fix "our broken trade policies and it sets a new course on trade that will benefit businesses and workers in the United States," Michaud said in statement.

The bill sets forth a list of agreements to be reviewed and requires the General Accountability Office to complete the review by June 2010. It also sets forth labor, environment, food and product safety standards, along with national security exceptions and trade remedies.

A Trade Bill Even Teamsters Can Support
James Hoffa, Jr.
Huffington Post

Congress is looking at a new trade proposal: the TRADE Act.

Even the Teamsters like it - and that's saying a mouthful, because we've been fierce critics of every trade proposal since NAFTA.

Deals like NAFTA, CAFTA and China PNTR aren't really "free trade agreements." They're deals to lure corporations away from America by promising access to cheap labor.

The TRADE Act would rewrite the rules on global trade. It would prevent agreements with countries that offer up their workers and their environment in exchange for investment deals that benefit a few of their richest citizens.

The TRADE Act also calls for a review of existing agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA -- which, as the Teamsters say, give workers the SHAFTA.

Give credit to the TRADE Act's Democratic sponsors: Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Rep. Mike Michaud of Maine.

They know the TRADE Act won't pass this year -- despite its 52 House cosponsors. There just isn't time this late in the session.

But Brown and Michaud also know the debate about trade needs to be changed before trade rules can be changed.

For the past 15 years, anyone who opposed a so-called "free trade agreement" was labeled a protectionist. And that was the end of the story.

Now, the TRADE Act allows us to present an alternative to trade rules that destroy good jobs, harm the environment and lower safety standards.

It allows us to make our case that trade can spread benefits to workers as well as to Wall Street.

We know change is coming. The American people are demanding it. In less than five months, we'll have a new president. And we'll have a new course on trade.

The TRADE Act sets that course -- for trade that creates good jobs and raises living standards for workers here and overseas.

Who's Saying What About the TRADE Act
Brandon Wu

Eyes on Trade

Change to Win:

"This legislation will finally bring an end to the disastrous trade deals that have sent millions of jobs overseas and lowered safety standards. It will set new rules for global trade that create good American jobs, improve working conditions everywhere, and make sure that the benefits of trade are shared with workers, not just corporate CEOs.

"The TRADE Act lays the foundation for creating fair trade agreements that will help working families achieve the American Dream in the 21st century economy."

National Farmers Union:

"Current trade agreements have consistently failed to live up to their promised benefits, encouraging a race to see who can produce the cheapest food and fiber regardless of production standards," NFU President Tom Buis said. "The TRADE Act defines a plan for a fair trade policy that will allow American agriculture to compete on a level playing field."

Friends of the Earth:

Friends of the Earth supports well-crafted trade policies that protect the environment and workers, enhance public health and safety, foster strong democratic institutions and improve the quality of life worldwide. Unfortunately, our world's precious natural resources face serious threats from the current free trade model. Past trade pacts, based upon the failed NAFTA/CAFTA model have not worked, and actually encourage industry to relocate in pursuit of the least stringent environmental and social standards. Trade agreements should support, rather than undermine, environmental protection. The TRADE Act encourages responsible behavior, providing a blueprint for a far better and more balanced way to conduct international trade.


The IAM believes that an entirely new model of trade and the global economy is critical if we are to regain our economic strength in the World. The first step is to throw out the old, failed model. The second step is to begin to craft a new model that is based on fairness and that will result in helping, not devastating, workers here at home...

The TRADE Act represents a fresh new start to replacing the failed trade model that continues to destroy jobs, lives and communities.


The TRADE Act provides a progressive blueprint that sets out what should be included in future trade agreements and renegotiated to remedy failures in existing agreements. Support for this bill will demonstrate to the public that we support responsible fair trade agreements that take account of the interests of workers, families, consumers, farmers and faith-based groups - the foundation of our democracy. Past trade agreements, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreements and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), have been long on promises but too short on job creation or growing our manufacturing base...

The bill will focus the debate on an improved set of trade and globalization rules that are critical if the rewards of the new global economy are to be shared broadly and fairly. Essentially, it is a marker for where the debate should start when we take up trade issues after the November elections. It provides a roadmap for what a responsible progressive agreement would include and procedures needed to enact it.

National Family Farm Coalition:

The National Family Farm Coalition today praised the introduction of the TRADE Act in the House and Senate which offers urgent and necessary reforms to our deeply flawed trade agreements. Much of the world is grappling with a growing global food crisis. Much of the crisis has been precipitated by free trade policies that have made developing countries reliant on imported food at the expense of domestic local production...

The TRADE Act offers positive steps to help countries practice food sovereignty instead of "free trade." Ben Burkett, President of the National Family Farm Coalition and a Mississippi farmer said, "We applaud the introduction of the TRADE act.  The legislation is clear that fair trade begins with farmers being able to earn fair prices reflecting cost of production, fair treatment of farm labor, and limitations against unfair dumping practices. It allows for countries who are part of a trade agreement to establish strategic food and energy reserves, an important policy that must be reinstated to address the global food crisis."

Citizens Trade Campaign:

Trade should be viewed as a means for achieving societal goals such as economic justice, human rights, healthy communities, and a sound environment. Agreements should reflect the views of the majority of the world's people on issues such as jobs, wages, the environment, human rights, food and consumer safety, access to essential services, and public health. The TRADE Act does this, marking out policy space for a more balanced way to expand trade. It marks out fair paths forward, explaining what we are for in a good agreement.

Congress Daily:

Claiming an election-year mandate from the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, House and Senate Democrats Wednesday introduced labor-backed legislation to effectively call a time-out on free-trade agreements...

"We want trade, and plenty of it. But we want it under a different set of rules," said [Sen. Sherrod] Brown, who was among a number of Democrats elected to the Senate in 2006."

...In attendance was an unusually unified coalition of labor activists, representing steelworkers, Teamsters, hotel and service-industry and communications workers, among others...

"Today marks the beginning of a new way forward of looking at trade issues," said [Rep. Michael] Michaud. He noted a recent plant closing in his district, with its workers now applying for Trade Adjustment Assistance. "They don't want trade assistance; they want their jobs."

Jonathan Tasini:

So, we now have something to rally around: the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development, and Employment Act of 2008 (whew, you know, titles like that get me all hot and bothered). The leaders on this bill are Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Representative Mike Michaud (ME-2), two guys who have been regular, consistent defenders of workers' rights since the very first day they took office (and I don't believe they have ever needed to throw back a shot of whiskey to prove it, either).

Workday Minnesota:

For years, fair trade advocates have fought unfair deals that shipped U.S. jobs abroad and undermined worker rights and the environment. Now, for the first time, they are putting forth comprehensive legislation to overhaul U.S. trade policy and create a new vision for the global economy.

...fair trade advocates have been unfairly labeled as "anti-trade" and "anti-globalization," said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch division. The proposed TRADE Act is pro-trade and marks a "concrete new way forward" for the movement, she said.
The TRADE Act would:

  • Require 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;
  • Set up commissions for monitoring and enforcing the standards in new trade agreements.
  • Require the president to submit plans for renegotiating current trade pacts such as NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) and GATT (the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) to put them in line with standards outlined in the act.
  • Eliminate the use of "fast track" – under which Congress is prohibited from amending trade agreements – and restore Congressional oversight of trade deals.

Public Citizen's Statement:

Following a presidential primary season highlighting broad public concern about current trade policies, the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment (TRADE) Act introduced today by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) reveals a way forward to a new trade and globalization agenda that could benefit more Americans, said Public Citizen. The bill is supported by a broad array of labor, consumer, environmental, family farm and faith groups and more than 50 House and Senate original cosponsors.

"The TRADE Act is exciting because it describes concretely new trade and globalization policies that many Americans would support and shifts the debate toward future consensus about what we are for, rather than focusing on opposition to the current model," said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch division.

The legislation requires a review of existing trade pacts, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and other major pacts, and sets forth what must and must not be included in future trade pacts. It also provides for the renegotiation of existing trade agreements and describes the key elements of a new trade negotiating and approval mechanism to replace Fast Track that would enhance Congress' role in the formative aspects of agreements and promote future deals that could enjoy broad support among the American public.

"Corporate interests have hijacked past trade pacts to get special protections - patent extensions that jack up drug prices, subsidies for offshoring production and more. The TRADE Act tips the scales back in balance with a trade agenda that also suits workers, the environment and everyday consumers," said Wallach. "The special interests who pushed our current trade pacts claimed that opponents of NAFTA and WTO were anti-trade, which was never true .We invite them to show their commitment to trade expansion by supporting the TRADE Act, which will build a new American consensus in favor of trade."

According to a May 2008 Pew Research Center poll, 48 percent of respondents believe free trade agreements are bad for the country, including 42 percent of Republicans and 52 percent of Independents. Only 35 percent of respondents consider them positive. A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll released in January 2008 found that 58 percent of Americans think "globalization has been bad ... because it has subjected American companies and employees to unfair competition and cheap labor."

These polls reflect many Americans' negative experiences under our current trade model. Since 1975, when Fast Track was first enacted, the U.S. trade balance has shifted from a slight surplus to an unsustainable $709 billion deficit in 2007. A net 4.7 million manufacturing jobs have been lost, and while American worker productivity has doubled, American median wages are only 1 percent above 1970s levels. Since NAFTA and the WTO went into effect, an array of domestic public interest laws have been successfully attacked while imports of unsafe food and products have surged.

"Presidential primary candidates from both parties responded to the American public's demand for trade policy change, and both leading Democratic candidates committed to renegotiating bad trade deals like NAFTA," said Wallach. "This bill provides the specifics of what a broad array of labor, consumer, environmental, faith and family farm groups representing millions of Americans expect for a future trade agenda."

For more information
Read the text of the TRADE Act (in a pdf file) at

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