As Trade Again Becomes a Hot-Button Election Issue, Senate Candidates Pile Onto TRADE Act

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As Trade Again Becomes a Hot-Button Election Issue, Senate Candidates Pile Onto TRADE Act

Sen. Specter’s Support at Philly Event Underscores Growing Trend

WASHINGTON - Senator Arlen Specter’s (D-Pa.) announcement of support for the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development, and Employment Act (TRADE Act) today underscores a growing trend. Candidates are rushing to bolster their fair trade credentials as the damage of past trade policies on the U.S. economy becomes a hot-button election issue. And, the TRADE Act lays out requirements for trade expansion under terms that can deliver benefits to American workers, firms and farmers, said Public Citizen.

Pennsylvania has lost 299,508 manufacturing jobs since the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). This represents a loss of 34 percent of the state’s manufacturing jobs. The state has lost 94,800 jobs since 2001 due to unfair trade with China alone. The urgent need to replace America’s failed trade policy and create a new path forward to trade expansion has led almost all of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation to co-sponsor the TRADE Act. Indeed, Pennsylvania had the largest number of original cosponsors to the bill, including Sen. Robert Casey and Representatives Jason Altmire, Robert Brady, Chris Carney, Kathy Dahlkemper, Mike Doyle, Tim Holden and Paul Kanjorski. Only two members – Reps. Joe Sestak (D) and Allyson Schwartz (D) – have not co-sponsored the bill.

 “Opposing the NAFTA-style trade model of the Bush-Clinton-Bush era and supporting the plan for job-creating trade expansion laid out in the TRADE Act is not only smart policy, it is also a political winner because, as we saw in the past two election cycles, this is a key demand of many Americans,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division. “For years, polling has shown that both Democrats and Republicans are fed up with our current trade policy, which has reaped huge profits for offshoring multinational corporations, big agribusiness firms, and Wall Street, while killing good jobs here, pushing down wages, and flooding our country with unsafe imports. They want to see their elected officials doing something about it.”

In the 2006 and 2008 elections, 72 House and Senate members who campaigned on trade reform replaced those who had voted for NAFTA and similar pacts. Meanwhile, the TRADE Act has 150 co-sponsors, including a majority of House Democrats. The House legislation is sponsored by 12 full committee chairs, 54 sub-committee chairs, Republicans and blocs of members from House caucuses that rarely agree on anything – including the Congressional Black (30 members), Hispanic (9), Blue Dog (23) and New Democrat (20) caucuses. Specter becomes the 10th sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, which was introduced later.
The TRADE Act provides a road map for delivering on the job-creation goals of President Barack Obama’s newly created National Export Initiative. The bill’s provisions are familiar to those who followed the 2008 campaign season. The TRADE Act captures the trade reforms promised in the 2008 Democratic platform and those committed to by Obama and many GOP and Democratic candidates who won congressional seats.

“Pennsylvania has been hit particularly hard by the current trade model,” Wallach said. “So it makes sense that almost all the members of the state’s congressional delegation are backing the TRADE Act, which would reform U.S. trade policy and create a new way forward for job-creating trade expansion.”

Across the country, Senate hopefuls have been piling onto the TRADE Act as they bolster their job-creation credentials. In the past month, Senate candidates Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.) and Charlie Melancon (D-La.) have co-sponsored, and Illinois Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias (D-Ill.) publicly pledged to co-sponsor the legislation.

At the Philadelphia event, organized by the Pennsylvania Fair Trade Coalition, Specter was bolstered by a diverse coalition of Pennsylvania labor, environmental, consumer, family farm, religious and other civil society groups. The event also honored the state’s “fair trade champions” in Congress.

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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.

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