(Host) Congressman Bernie Sanders says he’ll work to defeat the passage of a new free trade agreement with the countries of Central America.
Sanders says the treaty will result in a loss of jobs in Vermont and across the country. The Vermont Chamber of Commerce strongly disagrees with Sanders’ assessment.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:
(Kinzel) In the next few weeks, the U.S. House is expected to debate a proposed free trade agreement with the countries of Central America, it’s a treaty known as CAFTA. The House vote is critical because the Senate passed the measure last week by a nine-vote margin.
The agreement is designed to expand trade opportunities within the region. But Sanders says the treaty will make it easier for U.S. companies to move their manufacturing facilities to countries where wages are much lower than in the United States.
(Sanders) “You can’t continue to have trade agreements which result in the loss of millions of decent paying jobs in this country, which result in the lowering of wages in this country, which have American workers forced to compete against desperate people who are making pennies an hour, who go to jail if they stand up for their political or economic rights. Nobody can tell me that that has anything to do with fairness. It doesn’t.”
(Kinzel) Sanders notes that ten years ago more than a hundred Democrats voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement. This year fewer than ten are expected to support CAFTA. And a number of Republicans are also publicly opposing the trade agreement.
(Sanders) “And these guys go back to their districts and they’re saying: ‘Gee, we were told that all these kind of great jobs were going to be created.’ And what we’re seeing is the loss of good paying jobs. We no longer believe this dogma of unfettered free trade. So you’re seeing a lot of people, not just Democrats, but many, many Republicans who say: ‘ Sorry we voted for this stuff in the past. No more, Mr. President.'”
(Kinzel) The Vermont Chamber of Commerce believes that previous free trade agreements have helped create new jobs and it’s strongly supporting CAFTA. Chamber spokeswoman Vicki Tebbetts:
(Tebbetts) “We have lost some jobs but we have created more jobs. And as a result, the size of the U.S. market, the highly skilled U.S. workforce and the relatively low international trade barriers that we are creating, will serve as beacons to attract foreign investment into the American economy and thereby generate new, better paying jobs here in the United States.”
(Kinzel) Congressman Sanders says he’ll support international fair trade agreements when they include reasonable labor standards and important environmental regulations.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.