A coalition of 27 lawmakers from across the political spectrum is sponsoring a bill to withdraw the U.S. from the North American Free Trade Agreement in as little as six months.
Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., has introduced H.R. 4759, “To provide for the withdrawal of the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement.”
“NAFTA and similar free-trade agreements have resulted in a 29 percent decline in U.S. manufacturing employment since 1993,” Taylor’s office said in a statement. “NAFTA discourages investments in U.S. manufacturing facilities and accelerates the erosion of our industrial base.”
Taylor called the loss of manufacturing jobs a matter of national defense. He pointed out that the U.S. had a trade surplus of $1.7 billion with Mexico in 1993, prior to its entry into NAFTA – and that number turned into a deficit that peaked at $75 billion in 2007 and dropped to $47 billion by 2009. Additionally, his office said the trade deficit with Canada in 1993 was $11 billion prior to NAFTA, swelling to $78 billion and dropping back to $20 billion with the decline of the economy in 2009.
“I voted against this legislation in 1993 because I knew that this trade agreement would lead to a decline in jobs and our industrial manufacturing base,” Taylor said. “Just look at what happened when the Department of Defense needed to rapidly build Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles.”
Taylor explained that the Department of Defense sought to increase the number of MRAP vehicles in Iraq in 2007 and purchased 17,700. He said because of diminished manufacturing capacity, it took nine different contractors working together to build all those vehicles.
“The decline in our manufacturing base left the contractors without a trained workforce to build these vehicles. This led to delays and choke points in production and overall delivery of the MRAPs,” he said. “This was a logistical nightmare.”
He continued, “Without a sufficient industrial base capable of mass production, we are forced to spend more tax dollars because each contractor had to train workers and reinvent the parts for production. In some cases, we were dependent on foreign countries. These contractors had to literally reinvent the wheel or purchase the tires from France and Israel.”
Taylor’s office said that the U.S. has lost 29 percent of its manufacturing base since 1993 and that 5 million jobs have left the United States and never returned. Before 1993, U.S. manufacturing jobs were responsible for approximately 17 million jobs, it said. By 2009 U.S. manufacturing employment dropped to about 12 million workers.
Jim Hoffa, head of the Teamsters, one of the nation’s oldest and largest labor unions that represents 1.4 million American workers, applauded Taylor’s legislation.
“The lives of average workers in Mexico and in the U.S. have gotten so much worse since NAFTA,” Hoffa said in a press release. “When you realize you’ve made a bad deal, you try to get out of it.”
Hoffa said Americans were “sold a bill of goods” about NAFTA.
“We were told it would create export jobs because they were dying to buy our refrigerators, they were dying to buy our cars. None of that happened.”
Likewise, Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., told the Democratic Daily, “The American people are suffering. NAFTA has resulted in significant U.S. job losses. One of the major reasons Americans are working for lower pay and fewer benefits is that free-trade agreements like NAFTA have pushed millions of good paying jobs outside our borders. This just is not what the people of this country need or deserve. We need to bring jobs back to the American people.”
Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., told Michigan’s Saginaw News, “Tell me somewhere NAFTA created a job. You’re not going to find very many. Tell me where people have lost jobs because of NAFTA, and you’ll find thousands of them.”
Columnist Devvy Kidd reacted to news of Taylor’s legislation: “‘Free’ trade has all but destroyed our most important and productive jobs sectors: manufacturing, agriculture and industrial. Not to mention stomping on our sovereignty. … We are full of rage, but here is our first very real shot at getting out of NAFTA. I sincerely hope the national tea-party groups will embrace this fight and make it a priority as well as every American who fully understands how important it is to get out of that treaty.”
The complete text of Taylor’s bill is as follows:
SECTION 1. WITHDRAWAL OF THE UNITED STATES FROM THE NAFTA.
(a) Withdrawal of Approval- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the approval of the NAFTA by the Congress provided for in section 101(a) of the North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act shall cease to be effective beginning on the date that is six months after the date of the enactment of this Act.
(b) Notification of Withdrawal- On the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall provide to the Governments of Canada and Mexico written notice of withdrawal of the United States from the NAFTA in accordance with Article 2205 of the NAFTA.
(c) NAFTA Defined- In this section, the term ‘NAFTA’ means the North American Free Trade Agreement entered into between the United States, Canada, and Mexico on December 17, 1992.
The legislation would withdraw approval of NAFTA and requires the president to notify Canada and Mexico of the U.S. withdrawal from the treaty. H.R. 4759 has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee for further consideration.
Co-sponsors of H.R. 4759 include Rep. Michael Arcuri, D-N.Y.; Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif.; Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md.; Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa; Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Mass.; Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Ill.; Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore.; Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif.; Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz.; Rep. Phil Hare, D-Ill.; Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y.; Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C.; Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Wis.; Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio; Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C.; Rep. Michael Michaud, D-Maine; Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas; Rep. Mark Schauer, D-Mich.; Rep. Fortney Stark, D-Calif.; Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich.; Rep. Peter Viclosky, D-Ind.; Rep. Charles Wilson, D-Ohio; and Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif.
Former U.S. ambassador to Canada David Wilkins said the bill “just makes no sense” because “the United States is not losing jobs to Canada.”
“It’s shortsighted, it might be good local politics, it might please the labor unions, but it’s terrible public policy,” Wilkins told Power Play. “And a stand-alone bill like this I think with our system of government, where it’s easy to block legislation, I think it would be very difficult for them to pass this.”
According to the Canadian Broadcasting Centre, Canada’s international trade minister, Peter Van Loan, said, “Our evaluation is that this is certainly inconsistent with the direction that the Barack Obama administration has chosen … and as such we’re optimistic that [the bill] will not come to pass.”
WND has reported that President Obama has actively backtracked on his campaign promises to renegotiate NAFTA to get provisions more favorable to U.S. workers and U.S. jobs.
During the presidential campaign, Obama was forced to fire from his campaign an important economic adviser. Austan Goolsbee, an economics professor at the University of Chicago business school, was dismissed after reporters learned he had traveled to Canada to reassure Canadians that Obama’s campaign promises to renegotiate NAFTA were just campaign rhetoric.
In the Ohio and Pennsylvania Democratic Party primaries, candidate Obama had pledged to renegotiate NAFTA as part of his appeal to Ohio and Pennsylvania workers who have lost manufacturing jobs under the free-trade agreements negotiated by Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush.
“We’re well aware of what he said during the campaign, and we want the things reviewed and looked at,” Stupak said. “We think it’s run its course. All the rosy predictions they had about NAFTA have fallen flat.”
Stupak told the Saginaw News it would take 218 votes in the House and 51 votes in the Senate to overturn NAFTA. He also said it would take a supermajority of 60 Senate votes to bring it up for a decision.
“It’s an uphill battle,” he said. “No doubt about it.”
Upon announcing the legislation, Taylor said, “Timing is everything in life, and it’s the right time to pass this legislation. Proponents have had more than enough time to make this work. It didn’t.”