Search for...
OnTheIssuesLogo

Dick Gephardt on Free Trade

Former Democratic Representative (MO-3); Former Democratic Candidate for President


I'm for labor rights and NAFTA supporters are not

GEPHARDT: I got a trade treaty with Jordan that really paid attention to labor & environmental rights. The Gephardt amendment is in law in the country, and it got markets open, like in Japan, where we've had to face unfair trade practices. Now, everybody up here, except Kucinich, voted for NAFTA and voted for the China agreement. They did the wrong thing. We need to bring up conditions in these other countries so that we work toward a global marketplace that works for everybody. You can't do that if you give in to bad trade deals, like most of these candidates did.

EDWARDS: I didn't vote for NAFTA. I campaigned against NAFTA. I voted against the Chilean trade agreement, against the Caribbean trade agreement, against the Singapore trade agreement, against final passage of fast track for this president. Gephardt has sent out mailings attacking and identifying all of us and putting us in the same category.

GEPHARDT: Well, you weren't in Congress when NAFTA came up. But you voted for China.

Source: Democratic 2004 Presidential Primary Debate in Iowa Jan 4, 2004

Walk the walk of labor and environmental standards-by voting

KUCINICH: I will cancel NAFTA and the WTO. We've lost over 3 million manufacturing jobs in this country. The president has the authority and power to cancel NAFTA and the WTO. Will you, Governor Dean?

DEAN: I did not vote for NAFTA or the WTO, because I have never served in Congress. But I did support China's entry into the WTO in 1999 because I believed it was an issue for national security. I believe in constructive engagement. That doesn't mean these agreements don't need to be changed. We have stood up for multinational corporations in these agreements, but we have not stood up for workers' rights, environmental rights and human rights. And until we do, trade doesn't work.

GEPHARDT: Look, Howard, you were for NAFTA. You came to the signing ceremony. You were for the China agreement. It's one thing to talk the talk, it's another thing to walk the walk. We've got to get labor and environment in these treaties, when the treaties are before the Congress. That's when it counts.

Source: Democratic 2004 Presidential Primary Debate in Iowa Jan 4, 2004

Enact international minimum wage through WTO

The WTO must begin to recognize better standards for labor, human rights and environmental concerns. When I am president I will ask the WTO to enact an international minimum wage. It will be different in different countries, but we must begin to get international standards for labor and environment. We can get international standards recognized by making recognition a condition for being part of the WTO.
Source: Concord Monitor / WashingtonPost.com on-line Q&A Nov 3, 2003

Against protectionism and for trade treaties

Q: Could you explain your opposition to international trade?

A: I am for trade and I am for trade treaties that increase trade. I am against protectionism but I am also for training and retraining workers that lose their jobs. I am especially for using trade treaties to increase standards in other countries for workers and the environment. My trade position is often misunderstood. I voted for the WTO and I voted for trade treaties that can increase and enforce standards in other countries.

Source: Concord Monitor / WashingtonPost.com on-line Q&A Nov 3, 2003

Trade agreements must protect labor & environment

Q: You're known for opposing a variety of trade deals. And for that, you've been branded as an isolationist.

GEPHARDT: I was against NAFTA & China WTO when it counted. It's easy to say now that we [need proper protections for labor & environment, as my opponents do], but when the treaties were in front of Congress, they voted for them. We need a new trade policy that's optimistic, that raises up standards in other countries. We've got to stop the exploitation of workers across this world.

Source: Democratic Presidential 2004 Primary Debate in Detroit Oct 27, 2003

Fair trade saves jobs-globalization with fairness

We need to have a policy to build new jobs in this country. Part of it is fair trade, not just free trade. Most everybody here voted for NAFTA, voted for the China agreement. I did not. I led the fight against it. That's the kind of trade policy we need that globalizes with fairness and standards around the world so work, wherever it's performed, is given a fair wage for their hard work.
Source: Debate at Pace University in Lower Manhattan Sep 25, 2003

Progressive trade policy helps every worker in the world

Q: Do you wear the label "free trader" or "Made in America"?

GEPHARDT: I'm for a progressive trade policy and I will be a president who will lead not only America but the entire world toward a trade policy that will help every business and every worker in the world. That's what we need.

Some of the candidates were saying that they wouldn't be for a trade agreement that doesn't have labor and environmental standards in it. Well, that's what I tried to get in NAFTA. That's what I tried to get in the China agreement. I finally got, at the end of the Clinton administration, an agreement with Jordan that I encouraged that had labor and environmental standards in it.

It will take a long time to get those standards to be realized, but if any human being in this world works for a living, they ought to be treated as a human being. I have been in the villages in Mexico and China. I have seen the raw sewage coming down the middle of the road. We owe this to our fellow human beings.

Source: Debate at Pace University in Lower Manhattan Sep 25, 2003

Race to the bottom if we have no trade standards

Q: We've heard mixed support for NAFTA & FTAA.

GEPHARDT: I'm surprised to hear the outpouring of support for standards for the environment and labor in treaties like NAFTA. Most of the candidates here voted for those treaties without proper standards. I took on my own president on this. I thought Bill Clinton was wrong, because we didn't have those standards. We had side agreements that didn't mean anything, but we needed in the treaty. They're right. We do have a race to the bottom.

Source: Democratic Primary Debate, Albuquerque New Mexico Sep 4, 2003

NAFTA and China PNTR cause a race to the bottom in wages

Q: You voted against NAFTA. Would you try to cancel it?

GEPHARDT: When I'm president, I will try to adjust or change trade treaties that are on the books. Labor, human rights, and environmental concerns need to be in trade negotiations and trade treaties. [Recently] we haven't been able to get those things reflected in treaties whether it was NAFTA or China PNTR. [Then] we have backed off and allowed treaties to go through that do not take care of those problems.

So what's happening today is a race to the bottom. We have jobs leaving [the US] that originally went to Mexico. They're now going from Mexico to China because they can get the cheapest labor in the world in China. This has to end. It's good for no one.

Henry Ford had a statement. It was right when he said it, and it's right today: "I've got to pay my workers enough so there is somebody to buy the cars they are making." This is not complicated. We need a trade policy that reflects that belief.

Source: Democratic Debate in Columbia SC May 3, 2003

Rejected NAFTA: needed more for labor & environment

In 1991, I sent Pres. Bush a long letter specifying elements I believed had to be in [NAFTA. These included labor, health, safety, and environmental concerns] and the potential to give us the ability to promote enforcement of the laws in Mexico.

In 1993, I read the NAFTA agreement and the “side agreements” covering labor and the environment. I shook my head and simply said, “I can’t support NAFTA.” It was obvious the side agreements were on the “side” because the Mexican government didn’t want us to have the ability to stop trade if they didn’t enforce their laws. The side agreements were a hoax.

The day NAFTA passed was one of my darkest in Congress. The treaty was flawed and would endanger our standard of living-not just in obvious, immediate ways but gradually, by changing the competitive structure under which we deal with other countries. The agreements affecting labor & environmental issues are sadly inadequate & lack teeth. Since NAFTA, I really believe things have gotten worse.

Source: An Even Better Place, by Dick Gephardt, p. 94 & 99-100 Jul 2, 1999

Gephardt Amendment: results-oriented trade penalties

I outlined a results-oriented trade policy. Countries with whom we had persistent trade deficits caused by trade barriers would be singled out for consultations. If they refused to cooperate, we would demand a reduction in our bilateral trade deficit. If they failed to address the trade barriers, penalties would be applied. The initiative became known as the Gephardt Amendment.At the same time, the true nature of trade barriers around the globe began to be uncovered.
Source: An Even Better Place, by Dick Gephardt, p. 86-87 Jul 2, 1999

Fair trade on an equal playing field

I believe we need free trade. American companies have sold only sold 400,000 cars in Japan in the last 25 years. Japanese companies have sold 40 million in the U.S. If that was on an equal playing field, I would not object. But if you look at our trade deficit, it’s almost one and a half trillion dollars, half of it with Japan.

For every billion dollars of trade deficit, we lost about 17,000 jobs. Last year our trade deficit was about $150 billion. That is almost 2 million jobs.

Source: United We Stand America Conference, p.259-60 Aug 12, 1995

Trade will not bring about change in China

China is one of the most repressive regimes. Citizens are routinely arrested and imprisoned for political statements. Prisoners are made to manufacture products for sale-with no compensation. It is difficult to see how China’s exports can be seen as “fair” trade. The idea that trade is by itself bringing about political change in China is ludicrous. America has to stand for something more than money. Our economic policies must be undergirded by values.
Source: An Even Better Place, by Dick Gephardt, p.102-3 Jul 2, 1999

China: no positive economic relations with totalitarians

International trade may be the issue most people identify me with. In debates about trade, I’ve been called a protectionist, an isolationist, and worse. I’ve tried to describe for people the kind of economic relationship we should seek with other countries. Fairness-that’s what free trade is all about.

Since the end of the Cold War, it has become increasingly obvious that we cannot have successful capitalism around the world unless we are able to spread the infrastructure upon which capitalism relies-the rule of law, human rights, labor rights, governmental transparency, and other fundamentals that we in the U.S. take for granted. It certainly took me a long time to understand this. Ten years ago, it had never occurred to me that a democracy could not have a positive economic relationship with a totalitarian state.

Source: An Even Better Place, by Dick Gephardt, p. 81-82 Jul 2, 1999

Voted YES on implementing the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

United States-Australia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act: implementing free trade with protections for the domestic textile and apparel industries.
Reference: Bill sponsored by Rep Tom DeLay [R, TX-22]; Bill H.R.4759 ; vote number 2004-375 on Jul 14, 2004

Voted NO on implementing the US-Singapore free trade agreement.

Vote to pass a bill that would put into effect a trade agreement between the United States and Singapore. The trade agreement would reduce tariffs and trade barriers between the United States and Singapore. The agreement would remove tariffs on goods and duties on textiles, and open markets for services The agreement would also establish intellectual property, environmental and labor standards.
Reference: US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement; Bill HR 2739 ; vote number 2003-432 on Jul 24, 2003

Voted NO on implementing free trade agreement with Chile.

United States-Chile Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act: Vote to pass a bill that would put into effect a trade agreement between the US and Chile. The agreement would reduce tariffs and trade barriers between the US and Chile. The trade pact would decrease duties and tariffs on agricultural and textile products. It would also open markets for services. The trade pact would establish intellectual property safeguards and would call for enforcement of environmental and labor standards.
Reference: Bill sponsored by DeLay, R-TX; Bill HR 2738 ; vote number 2003-436 on Jul 24, 2003

Voted NO on withdrawing from the WTO.

Vote on withdrawing Congressional approval from the agreement establishing the World Trade Organization [WTO].
Reference: Resolution sponsored by Paul, R-TX; Bill H J Res 90 ; vote number 2000-310 on Jun 21, 2000

Voted NO on 'Fast Track' authority for trade agreements.

Vote to establish negotiating objectives for trade agreements between the United States and foreign countries and renew 'fast track' authority for the President.
Reference: Bill introduced by Archer, R-TX.; Bill HR 2621 ; vote number 1998-466 on Sep 25, 1998

Rated 22% by CATO, indicating a pro-fair trade voting record.

Gephardt scores 22% by CATO on senior issues

The mission of the Cato Institute Center for Trade Policy Studies is to increase public understanding of the benefits of free trade and the costs of protectionism.

The Cato Trade Center focuses not only on U.S. protectionism, but also on trade barriers around the world. Cato scholars examine how the negotiation of multilateral, regional, and bilateral trade agreements can reduce trade barriers and provide institutional support for open markets. Not all trade agreements, however, lead to genuine liberalization. In this regard, Trade Center studies scrutinize whether purportedly market-opening accords actually seek to dictate marketplace results, or increase bureaucratic interference in the economy as a condition of market access.

Studies by Cato Trade Center scholars show that the United States is most effective in encouraging open markets abroad when it leads by example. The relative openness and consequent strength of the U.S. economy already lend powerful support to the worldwide trend toward embracing open markets. Consistent adherence by the United States to free trade principles would give this trend even greater momentum. Thus, Cato scholars have found that unilateral liberalization supports rather than undermines productive trade negotiations.

Scholars at the Cato Trade Center aim at nothing less than changing the terms of the trade policy debate: away from the current mercantilist preoccupation with trade balances, and toward a recognition that open markets are their own reward.

The following ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.

Source: CATO website 02n-CATO on Dec 31, 2002

  • Click here for definitions & background information on Free Trade.
  • Click here for policy papers on Free Trade.
  • Click here for HouseMatch answers by Dick Gephardt.
  • Agree? Disagree? Voice your opinions on Free Trade in The Forum.
    Profile
Other candidates on Free Trade: Dick Gephardt on other issues:
MO Gubernatorial:
Bob Holden
Matt Blunt
MO Senatorial:
Jean Carnahan
Jim Talent
John Ashcroft
Kit Bond
Mel Carnahan
Nancy Farmer

Presidential:
George W. Bush (GOP)
V.P.Dick Cheney (GOP-V.P.)
Sen.John Kerry (Dem.)
Sen.John Edwards (Dem.V.P.)
Ralph Nader (Reform)
Peter Camejo (Reform V.P.)
David Cobb (Green)
Michael Badnarik (Libertarian)
Michael Peroutka (Constitution)
Abortion
Budget/Economy
Civil Rights
Corporations
Crime
Drugs
Education
Energy/Oil
Environment
Families/Children
Foreign Policy
Free Trade
Govt. Reform
Gun Control
Health Care
Homeland Security
Immigration
Infrastructure/Technology
Jobs
Principles/Values
Social Security
Tax Reform
War/Iraq/Mideast
Welfare/Poverty