Merkley Statement on Korea, Panama, and Colombia Trade Agreements

Washington, DC – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley released the following statement prior to votes today on the Korea, Panama, and Colombia Free Trade Agreements. 

“I have one standard when it comes to trade agreements:  will these agreements increase prosperity for working families?  Looking at the trade deals before us, I have come to conclusion that they will not.  While some industries may benefit, on balance, these agreements will lead to the loss of more manufacturing and living wage jobs in Oregon and the United States.  Therefore, I will vote no on these deals. 

“Trade is important to the Oregon economy, and I am a strong proponent of shipping our electronics, machinery, and agricultural products like wheat around the world.  Our workers and businesses, however, need to be able to compete on a level playing field.  A primary flaw of each of these agreements is the lack of strong enforcement mechanisms to ensure fair environmental and labor standards.  Without strong enforcement, these agreements give foreign manufacturers huge advantages that will continue to destroy American jobs. 

“Second, these agreements allow foreign businesses to sue the United States and state governments in private international ‘courts’ without basic protections such as full transparency, the right to trial and appeal, and with no accountability to American citizens.  These ‘courts’ are completely contrary to our American traditions.

“Finally, the most important treaty, the US-South Korea Treaty, has serious flaws.  Most significantly, the country of origin rules are weak, making Korea a potential gateway for funneling Chinese products to America at even lower tariffs than they have under the WTO.  China already manipulates its currency and uses illegal subsidies to undermine American products.  This loophole will enable China to further damage U.S. manufacturing.

“The bottom line is that these trade deals continue to undermine American manufacturing and America’s standard of living.  We won’t have a strong middle class in America if we don’t make things here in America. That is why I will vote no.”