Congressman Bill Pascrell

Representing the 9th District of NEW JERSEY

Ranking Member Pascrell Opening Statement at Trade Subcommittee Hearing on NAFTA

Jul 18, 2017
Press Release

(Remarks as prepared)

On behalf of the Trade Subcommittee’s Democrats, I want to thank Chairman Reichert for calling this important and much-needed hearing on the re-negotiation of NAFTA.  

I also want to thank the witnesses for participating sharing their thoughtful views on what the re-negotiation of NAFTA should accomplish.  It is especially helpful to hear these views, given the lack of clarity and vision from the Administration thus far on what a new NAFTA should include.

On June 27th, I testified during the USTR’s public comment period as the Administration was putting together their negotiating objectives. In my testimony I laid out several key priorities to improve outcomes for American families that I think are important for any NAFTA renegotiation to focus on. And to me and to the Donald Trump we saw on the campaign trail in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, the number one priority has to be jobs and wages here in the United States. 

Well, the Administration published a summary of its negotiating objectives through the USTR yesterday with little specificity and no evidence or indication that they will bring jobs or wage growth to the United States. After waffling and contradicting themselves throughout this process, we finally have some milquetoast objectives that look like a recycled version of the same old, same old.

During the campaign, Mr. Trump declared NAFTA “a disaster.”  He’s pointed out that – in his words – “our jobs are being sucked out of our economy” in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, and upstate New York because “our jobs have fled to Mexico and other places.”  He pledged to bring those jobs back and to re-negotiate NAFTA to make it a “great trade deal.”

But the negotiating objectives released yesterday recycle many of the same policies he railed against in TPP – an agreement the President made a big show out of pulling out of during his first week in office.  

Credit where it is due: the Administration proposal would make strides on the issues of countervailing duties and treatment of state-owned enterprises.

But those are on the margins. The biggest issues impacting jobs and wages in the United States – low wages in Mexico and lax labor laws, currency manipulation abroad, and lack of meaningful enforcement – are nowhere to be found in these objectives. Where are the jobs and higher wages this President promised? I see nothing to indicate that these objectives will improve the standard of living in Pittsburgh or Puebla. 

I’ve introduced legislation, the Jobs and Trade Competitiveness Act of 2017, that I believe stand in sharp contrast to this Administration’s weak attempt at trade reform. H.R. 2756, would crack down on cheating in trade, reward insourcing instead of offshoring American jobs, meaningfully combat currency manipulation, and make it easier for small businesses and manufacturers to bring cases against countries that flout the rules.

Of course we should talk about how NAFTA can be modernized and updated, since it’s being re-negotiated anyway.  But let’s not fool ourselves.  The real questions we need to be asking in re-negotiating NAFTA are:  
 
1.   How do we change the terms of NAFTA to create new and good paying jobs?
 
2.   How do we change the terms of NAFTA to raise wages and standards of living in the United States?
 
3.   How do we change the terms of NAFTA to ensure the benefits of trade are shared with the working people and middle class families of America and not just America’s mighty corporations?
 
4.   How do we change the terms of NAFTA to ensure that the American economy is healthy, vibrant, sustainable and capable of providing jobs, security, and dignity for Americans across our country, across economic sectors, and across communities?

We need to be clear and, more importantly, we need to be honest about the goals of this NAFTA re-negotiation exercise.  

If, at the end of this process, all we have to show for it is a trade arrangement that looks a lot like the TPP but with fewer countries, it will be a massive waste of time.  And it will be a betrayal by this Administration of the American people who have already been betrayed by decades of trade policies that never put their interests first.

I look forward to hearing your testimony and to asking you these questions about how we make NAFTA, in the President’s words, a “great trade agreement.” Thank you.