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Hearing of the Trade Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee - Testimony of Rep. Dan Kildee, Hearing on Enforcement in the New NAFTA


Date: May 23, 2019
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Trade


REP. DAN KILDEE (D-MI) - Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I echo your comments. I reject the bizarre conflation of other really contentious issue that we are dealing with and the very thoughtful approach that this committee has taken to this question in our deliberations with one another, in our meetings with Mr. Lighthizer, and in the interaction between the members of this committee and this panel. It is unfortunate that those comments were somehow introduced into what I think has been a really civil conversation. I would also like to ask if I could submit for the record some testimony provided by a former member of this committee, Mr. Levin, who has given some very good thought to this and has a document that he would like to have added to the record.

I want to thank you all. This is a subject that is very important to the people that I represent. I come from Michigan, specifically from my hometown of Flint, which has an incredible history in manufacturing and the birthplace of General Motors. It was the place in 1937 when the first UAW contract was written after 44 days of the Sit-Down Strike. We helped build the middle class, and very sadly have felt the brunt of bad trade deals for a long time.

I come to this conversation very interested not in just what the plain promises are in the agreement, but how these agreements are going to be enforced. I am very concerned that this is a subject that does need more attention and would just like to pursue with some of the past questions.

How does this new agreement enforcement provision improve over what my community has experienced in the last couple of decades? Does it improve enforcement over what we have experienced?

We have heard these same promises before. We were told that it would be good for Mexican workers, we were told that there would be robust enforcement in the previous agreement. We were told it would not result in a net loss of jobs to Mexico in the previous agreement, and now we see Mexican workers making less than two dollars an hour. Will this improve that situation substantially? Can I go home to my constituents and tell them that?

Ms. Polaski: Congressman, I am afraid that the enforcement method of USMCA does absolutely nothing to improve enforcement of labor rights in Mexico or throughout the North American territory, so I don't think that you can reassure your constituents of that. And that's why I think we need a new and robust enforcement mechanism. Not a little bit of tweaking of what's in there because it has not worked for 25 years. I think, therefore, we need a new mechanism and I think that good ideas have already been put forward. They can be expanded, developed and improved, and I hope today's hearing helps to launch that conversation more broadly. Because what we have now will not produce different results from what has happened for the past 25 years.

KILDEE - Thank you, Mr. Herrnstadt, I was wondering if you might comment, we were just lectured that we should just have a vote tomorrow, I suppose on this. What would happen to American workers if we simply ratified this agreement without any additional work. What would happen to American workers and manufacturing for example?

Mr. Herrnstadt: It would be a dreadful waste of an opportunity to get this thing right. We would continue, as my colleague has just said, with the same outsourcing that's gone on for U.S. workers, with the same abuse of rights for Mexican workers, and by the way I do take issue with some that say this NAFTA 2.0 represents the highest labor standards of any trade agreement because where we've been, that's not really much of a test. You could do very small things that have no effect, no effect on workers that are losing their jobs as we speak, as another plant moves to Mexico with respect to that.

KILDEE - Thank you, and I wonder if I could just finish asking Ms. Vorwerk, if could comment. I'm happy to hear the comment that you are of the belief that increased enforcement would be helpful. Would you agree that it makes sense to re-open the agreement to include stronger enforcement language in the agreement?

Ms. Vorwerk: I think what you are hearing is consensus among his panel that enforcement is important, and I also believe what you are hearing, Congressman Kildee, is that there is an opportunity to tweak some of the enforcement mechanisms in the agreement.

KILDEE - Just to be clear that would require additional negotiations and new language included in the agreement to strengthen enforcement, is that correct?

Ms. Vorwerk: I am not going to claim to be the legislator or the negotiator. I think what is important to say exactly how it gets done, what I am pleased by is that we are having a bi-partisan approach to addressing these issues on enforcement. There's some good ideas that have been put forward across all the panelists.

KILDEE - Thank you very much, and I thank you, Mr. Chairman.