(Host) Republican U.S. House candidate Bill Meub says Congressman Bernie Sanders has cost Vermont jobs by his strong opposition to free trade agreements. But Sanders says Meub’s claims are false.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:
(Kinzel) It’s hard to find an issue that Meub and Sanders disagree more passionately about than trade. Meub favors an expansion of the existing North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, to include the countries of Central and South America. Sanders strongly opposes the plan.
Meub supports a proposal to give the president fast track authority to establish trade agreements with other countries. Sanders voted against the measure. Meub says trade is critical to the future of Vermont because the state’s rate of export growth is the fastest in the Northeast and Meub says trade jobs often pay higher wages than non-trade positions:
(Meub) “When IBM has been taken out of the equation, our trade is growing at about 15% a year averaged over the last 5 years or so. That generates about a 1,000 jobs a year in manufacturing. More than 60% of all of our manufactured products in Vermont are exported. I think that that’s an important statement about how critical trade is to us.”
(Kinzel) Sanders argues that free trade has been great for large corporations that want to move their factories overseas to take advantage of cheap labor. He says this practice has led to the loss of millions of jobs across the country:
(Sanders) “In the state of Vermont we have lost thousands of jobs because of our trade policies, because businesses in Vermont cannot compete against companies in China that pay workers 20 cents an hour and where workers go to jail if they stand up for their rights. So anyone wants to call me anti-business because I think an American worker should not have to work and compete against desperate people who are working for starvation wages, so be it.”
(Kinzel) Meub acknowledges that NAFTA has resulted in the loss of jobs but he says the number of new jobs created by the trade agreement far outnumbers the number lost.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.