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North American Free Trade Agreement; Affects on Workers

North American Free Trade Agreement; Affects on Workers

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Excerpt from North American Free Trade Agreement; Affects on Workers: Hearing of the Committee on Labor and Human Resources United States Senate

U.S. Senate,

Committee on Labor and Human Resources,

Washington, DC.

The committee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:00 a.m., in room SD-430, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Senator Edward M. Kennedy (chairman of the committee) presiding.

Present: Senators Kennedy, Pell, Metzenbaum, Simon, Harkin, Wellstone, Wofford, Kassebaum, Gregg, and Hatch.

Opening Statement of Senator Kennedy

The Chairman. Since the hour for our hearing on NAFTA has arrived, we will begin the hearing at this time. Secretary Reich is on his way, but I know there will be some brief - hopefully - opening statements, I think we can proceed, and I am sure he will understand and tolerate that procedure.

Today we are considering the North American Free Trade Agreement and in particular its effects on workers. As the Committee on Labor and Human Resources, we have a special responsibility to ensure that this agreement, which was originally negotiated by the Bush administration and supplemented by the Clinton administration adds to and does not subtract from the economic well-being of American workers.

Daily, we are faced with conflicting evidence about job gains and job losses that will result from NAFTA and equally conflicting estimates of wage increases and wage reductions from NAFTA. We are told on the one hand that the Mexican economy is so small that NAFTA will not matter much. On the other hand, we are told that NAFTA will help us to build a stronger economy tor the future and that it highlights our concerns for the rights of American workers and workers of other countries.

The debate on the North American Free Trade Agreement is accompanied by concerned voices from many different interests - businesses that seek to expand into new markets, foreign policy and trade experts proclaiming that the economy of the future and the international leadership of the United States are at stake, and labor organizations and individuals concerned about the real jobs they have today, skeptical of Government's ability to help those who are dislocated by yet another economic change, and profoundly disturbed by estimates of net job gains, because they are the ones caught in the "net."

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