Tom Perriello: Level the playing field
As we fight through this deep recession, we must start manufacturing, building, and growing things in America again. For too long, elites in both parties have pursued policies that ship our jobs overseas and undermine the middle and working class. Manufacturing, construction, and agriculture cannot be treated as yesterday’s news but rather must be part of today’s economic recovery. In the past couple of weeks, we have won some overdue victories for making things in America again and going after China’s efforts to manipulate currency and dump products illegally in our markets.
I am a member of the House Trade Working Group, a bipartisan group working to level the playing field for American businesses and workers to outcompete the world. Last year, we helped to stop efforts to expand NAFTA-type trade deals to other parts of Latin America. Recently, President Obama announced that he wanted to send the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement to Congress for our approval. I joined several of my colleagues from the Working Group to write President Obama to express our opposition to this expansion of NAFTA-style trade deals. I have consistently opposed agreements that devastate our manufacturing and industry in Central and Southern Virginia.
Our area has continued to suffer because of NAFTA and the World Trade Organization. 5,900 5th district jobs were lost to China between 2001 and 2008. We need better trade that benefits American workers, not deals that will send our jobs offshore. I have consistently stood up to both parties on this issue and will continue to do so because we simply cannot afford any new NAFTA-style agreements.
The Korea FTA, which was negotiated by President George W. Bush’s administration, is yet another NAFTA deal that may help some on Wall Street while leaving America’s Main Street businesses and workers at a disadvantage. It would essentially give Korean companies total access to American markets without offering the same benefits to American industry.
At a time when our economy is struggling to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression, we should be investing in a America’s competitive advantage in the world, making it easier to make it, build it and grow it in America again. As your representative, I have been active in advancing the new “Make it in America” initiative to promote domestic manufacturing and construction. We must get back to these activities if we are going to see the economic recovery and job creation we need.
Part of supporting American jobs is making sure other countries play by the rules. In the past few years, China has continued a dangerous trend of manipulating its currency and dumping products in ways that illegally disadvantage American products. These tactics aggravate our growing trade deficit, and I was part of a group that demanded the first major Congressional hearings into some of these latest tactics.
Our economic and political leaders cannot sit idly by; we all must fight back to give American workers and businesses a fair chance to outcompete the world.
Finally, I have begun a series of 20 town hall meetings that will continue through mid-September. The meetings have been a great opportunity to hear from constituents, answer their concerns, and gather ideas. Much of the legislation I sponsor and support comes from conversations just like the ones we are having at these meetings. We have had great meetings already in Appomatox, Charlotte Courthouse and Fluvanna, with many more in the weeks ahead. The meetings have been a great chance to share ideas for turning around our economy and getting much-needed economic relief to working and middle class families. So far our meetings have been civil and substantive and I look forward to continuing the conversation over the coming weeks.
Tom Perriello represents the Fifth District in the United States House of Representatives.