After allowing a trade assistance program to expire back in February, Republicans are still demanding that President Obama agree to ratify pending trade agreements with South Korea, Columbia and Panama in their GOP Weekly Address, given by North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven.
Here's more from Think Progress on the assistance program -- McConnell On Trade Pacts: ‘Leave Trade Assistance Out Of It’:
Back in February, congressional Republicans allowed a key trade assistance program to expire, blocking tens of thousands of workers who have lost their jobs due to international trade from accessing benefits. President Obama, in turn has said that he will not submit new trade agreements to Congress until it revives the trade assistance program.
But Republicans are digging their heels in against reauthorizing a program to help the workers who inevitably end up on the short end of the stick when it comes to free trade deals. Today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) went so far as to claim that trade assistance has no place in negotiations over free trade agreements:
This morning I’m calling on the administration once again to send us the three pending trade agreements that the president himself has said would create tens of thousands of American jobs and to leave Trade Adjustment Assistance out of it.
McConnell is not the only one utterly indifferent to the plight of workers who lose their jobs due to trade pacts. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said that trade assistance shouldn’t be reauthorized because “we’re broke.” [...]
Indeed, international trade pacts produce winners and losers, and the government has a responsibility to help those who lose their livelihood through no fault of their own. But the GOP wants only to talk about the positive aspects of trade, while pretending that the negative aspects simply don’t exist.
Transcript below the fold.
Hi, I’m Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota, and I’d like to talk to you today about our nation’s fiscal challenges –- in particular, about the vital role that international trade can play to help us create jobs and reduce our deficit.
Almost exactly one hundred years ago, at the start of another century, President Theodore Roosevelt launched a U.S. Navy mission known as the Great White Fleet on a voyage around the world.
It was a show of American strength, but it was also a show of American goodwill and prosperity. That voyage would open the doors of trade with the vast, untapped markets of Asia, and help usher in what became known as the ‘American Century.’
President Roosevelt’s leadership put the world on notice that the United States of America -- with the freest, most dynamic economy the world had ever seen -- was open for business.
It’s a legacy felt to this day -- but a legacy now in jeopardy.
We’re all keenly aware of just how serious our nation’s current fiscal situation is. No....
... American family could spend 60 percent more than it’s taking in and survive -- no less prosper -- but that’s exactly what our country is doing.
The result is a $1.5-trillion deficit, and a $14-trillion debt that is dragging down our economy and burdening us and our children.
To put all that in human terms, nearly 14 million of our fellow Americans are without a paycheck, and they have been for some time.
To turn that around, our country needs the kind of pro-jobs, pro-growth policies that will help us live up to our vision of a strong, peaceful, prosperous America.
We have an opportunity right now to advance that vision and jump-start the nation’s economy. Robust international trade can help us do it, and we can start by ratifying long-pending free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama.
All of these agreements have been languishing for years, but with a 9.1 percent unemployment rate, and a spiraling deficit, the president can no longer hold these agreements back. Currently, he is holding them up in order to negotiate the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program. TAA can be addressed separately in the context of Trade Promotion Authority, as it generally has been in the past since 1974.
For the good of our economy –- and our country –- he needs to send these free trade agreements to the United States Senate for approval now so that U.S. workers and businesses can begin to realize their benefits.
You know, I recently had an opportunity to travel to South Korea with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and a group of senators to meet with President Lee Myung-bak and prominent Korean business leaders about the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement.
President Lee said he believes Korean lawmakers will approve the free trade agreement, but they’re waiting for America to lead the way.
They want and expect us to lead the way because –- to South Korea and nations around the world –- America has always been a beacon of liberty and opportunity.
Nearly everyone we spoke with in Korea -- on the street or the meeting room –- expressed their deep appreciation to the United States, and especially to our military and our veterans.
They’re keenly aware that U.S. service members sacrificed so much to give them a free society and a free-market economy where they could pursue their dreams.
South Korea is now a prosperous, modern nation, with a $1 trillion economy and 49 million consumers, in large part because American service members won and now help preserve the peace. Korea is the 15th-largest economy in the world, and our country’s seventh-largest trading partner.
Per capita income in South Korea today is more than $20,000 annually. In communist North Korea? Just over $1,000 annually. A free and open economy made the difference.
Today, again, America needs to lead the way, starting with the president.
The U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement will eliminate or reduce more than 85 percent of the tariffs between the United States and Korea, including the eventual elimination of a 40 percent Korean tariff on American beef.
Just one project we’ve been working on in my home state, a new beef processing facility, could mean a $100 million investment in our economy and 500 new jobs. In North Dakota that’s a big deal.
But these free trade agreements are an even bigger deal for America. The South Korean Free Trade Agreement alone will increase our nation’s exports to that country by more than $10 billion and create 280,000 American jobs. In fact, for every 4 percent increase in American exports, we can create one million new American jobs.
The reality is that nearly 80 percent of the world’s purchasing power lies outside the United States, and if we don’t tap those markets, others will.
Free and fair trade agreements can help us create the kind of pro-jobs, pro-growth economy that will lift our nation up. Good fiscal control and a legal tax, and regulatory environment that promotes private investment and business innovation, can help us to create jobs, grow our economy, and reduce our deficit.
We need to build on the legacy of President Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet by ratifying these free trade agreements, so that instead of a debt, we can leave our children a bright, dynamic future.