July 14, 2003
Statement of Sen. Russ Feingold
On the Chile and Singapore Free Trade Agreements
Mr. Chairman, I will vote against the bills implementing the Singapore and Chile Free Trade Agreements. First of all, I am disturbed that the Trade Representative has undertaken to modify U.S. immigration law in these agreements. I am pleased that so many of my colleagues have objected to this procedure, which undermines the jurisdiction of this Committee and the power of the Congress to set immigration policy in this country.
Although this Committee does not have formal jurisdiction over most of the other issues raised by these trade agreements, the defects in the agreements are significant enough to merit some comment here.
Labor and environmental issues clearly receive second-class treatment compared to commercial issues. Both agreements backslide from the modest gains made in the U.S. - Jordan Free Trade Agreement in the area of labor and the environment. There is no comparable enforcement for labor and environmental issues compared to commercial matters. There is no requirement for the core standards of the International Labor Organization. And there is no requirement that countries not lower their labor or environmental standards.
Both of the agreements fail to include provisions ensuring that foreign investors have no greater rights than U.S. citizens and U.S. corporations, and in failing to do so these agreements may violate the requirements this Congress imposed as a condition of obtaining so-called fast track consideration. Both of these agreements undermine the 2001 Doha declaration with respect to intellectual property and access to affordable medicines. And both of these agreements include troubling restrictions on the ability of a country to use short term currency controls during an economic crisis, something that not even NAFTA contained.
In sum, Mr. Chairman, these agreements are bad for the American people. I will oppose them here, and when they come to the floor.