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Buchanan Opening Statement at Hearing on Trade and Labor: Creating and Enforcing Rules to Benefit American Workers

March 26, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  The top Republican on the House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Vern Buchanan (R-FL) delivered the following opening statement at a Subcommittee Hearing on Trade and Labor: Creating and Enforcing Rules to Benefit American Workers.

Before the start of today’s hearing, Rep. Buchanan and Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), the top Republican on the Committee, sent a letter to Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) and Trade Subcommittee Chairman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).  CLICK HERE to read the full letter.

CLICK HERE to watch the hearing.

Remarks as prepared for delivery: 

“Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing on trade and labor. I am pleased to have this opportunity to discuss the heath of the U.S. workforce and the role of our trade policy in maximizing opportunities for U.S. workers while avoiding the harsh political rhetoric we see too often in Congress. And thank you to all of the witnesses today for taking the time to share your perspectives with us. 

“From my perspective, the starting point for any discussion of jobs for all Americans must be the strength of our economy.  Because of the successes of Republican-led economic policies, wages are growing, unemployment is low, and manufacturing is booming.  Last year, for the first time since 2000, the number of job openings in this country exceeded the number of unemployed.  Over the past year, the unemployment rate has remained below four percent, and the economy has been growing at an impressive three percent rate—something the previous Administration said was impossible.

“We need to build on this success with smart and enforceable trade agreements that allow us to sell American products across the globe while creating well-paying jobs in the United States.  Trade agreements like USMCA raise standards in other countries and level the playing field so our companies and workers can compete and win globally.  I am a strong supporter of USMCA because it modernizes our trade relationship with our closest trading partners in a smart, effective, and seamless way.  That includes agriculture, services, intellectual property, and digital trade, as well as significantly updating labor standards in Mexico and holding Mexico accountable to those commitments. 

“Enforcement is a critical aspect of our trade agreements.  As a businessman, I know that a contract is only as good as the parties involved.  That is why strong enforcement mechanisms, which allow countries to hold each other accountable, are essential in our trade agreements.  I agree with my colleagues that obligations in our trade agreements must be fully enforceable, and I would emphasize that all such obligations must be subject to meaningful dispute settlement, not just labor.  Such robust enforcement allows us to can reap the full benefits of the concessions that other countries make to us.

“Two-way trade with Canada and Mexico already totals nearly $1.3 trillion per year.  My home state of Florida annually exports over $12 billion of goods and services to Canada and Mexico, supporting over 700,000 jobs, including good jobs at Port Manatee in my district.

“This agreement is an opportunity to update these vital trade relationships and make sure they are working well for all Americans.

“We also need new trade agreements to unlock additional markets for U.S. goods and services.  I am very pleased by the initiatives underway to pursue negotiations with Japan, the European Union, and eventually the United Kingdom.  Negotiations with major trading partners like these are never easy, but the opportunities are immense.  I am convinced that if we achieve comprehensive, high-standard agreements with these trading partners, all Americans will benefit from the improved access to these critical markets that our farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, and service providers achieve.  Our workers in all these sectors are the best in the world, and with a level playing field, I am confident that they will compete and win.

“Thank you again, Mr. Chairman, for calling this hearing and thank you to the witnesses for taking the time to be here before us today.”