Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced legislation she introduced with U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) that would “level the playing field” for American workers in global trade agreements. The Level the Playing Field in Global Trade Act of 2019 would require any future trade agreements that is eligible for fast track consideration by Congress to include enforceable wage, workplace, and environmental standards. This would help ensure that American workers and businesses are not undercut by foreign imports that are made by workers who are paid substandard wages or who work in hazardous conditions, and that imports are manufactured using sustainable production methods that uphold environmental standards.
“America has always been a global leader in manufacturing, and other countries who don’t hold their manufacturing sector to the same labor and environmental standards should not be in a trade deal with the United States. This would only undercut American manufacturing and hurt our middle class. I’m proud to introduce legislation to help ensure that any trade deal with our nation protects fair wages, safe working conditions, and the environment,” said Senator Gillibrand. “For too long, bad trade deals have undermined our workers, and at a time when the president has created chaos with his lack of trade strategy, I urge my colleagues to support this bill that works to strengthen the American economy.”
“If we don’t make things in America, we won’t have a middle class in America,” said Senator Merkley. “There is no question that American workers are hurt by unfair trade practices. Right now, though, President Trump’s haphazard and impulsive approach of layering tariffs onto tariffs is just raising costs for consumers without a clear strategy to level the playing field in trade. It’s time for a smart and targeted approach that will create a race to the top, not a race to the bottom. Congress needs to make sure future trade negotiations are leveling the playing field for manufactures around the world so that American workers and factories don’t pay the price for our policy failures.”
“Bad actors like China are not playing by the rules on steel, aluminum and paper. We need the new tools provided in this legislation to take on China’s cheating,” said Senator Baldwin. “As the nation’s leading paper producer, when China cheats, our Wisconsin workers and manufacturers lose. This legislation will help level the playing field and support Wisconsin workers.”
One of the underlying factors for the decline in manufacturing jobs in the United States is companies’ shift to doing business in countries that do not follow comparable environmental, workplace, and wage standards. The Level the Playing Field and Global Trade Act of 2019 would make any potential new trade agreement with countries that do not have adequate wages and sustainable production methods ineligible for consideration. Additionally, this bill would require potential trade agreements to be made publicly available before being signed. In the case that a new trade deal is negotiated, the International Trade Commission would be responsible for determining compliance with labor and sustainable production standards. Any failure to meet these standards would be treated as unfair subsidies, and those imports will be penalized.
The legislation is endorsed by the United Auto Workers, the Communications Workers of America, the United Steelworkers, and the AFL-CIO.
The full text of the Level the Playing Field in Global Trade Act of 2019 is available here.