Kerry promises more-vigorous enforcement of trade deals

He receives endorsement from Teamsters union

May 17, 2004|By Frank James | Frank James,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

LAS VEGAS - At a gathering of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters where he received the union's endorsement, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry promised yesterday that his administration would strictly enforce trade pacts in order to prevent the loss of more U.S. jobs.

The Massachusetts senator said he would appoint a commission to report on U.S. trading partners' compliance with international trade deals.

"I'll tell you, we'll never get ahead if other countries don't live up to their end of the bargain," Kerry said. "Who's going to hold them up to their part of the bargain? That's the job of the people that you elect. This administration hasn't enforced our trade deals."

Organized labor groups have complained about the lack of enforcement of the labor and environmental provisions in trade pacts such as the North American Free Trade Agreement. Such provisions were meant to raise labor and environmental standards in other countries and not allow foreign manufacturers to avoid reforms and simply maintain their cost advantage over U.S. companies.

"I intend to fight to see that the American worker has a fair playing field to compete on, because if you give the American worker a fair playing field, there's no one in the world the American worker can't compete against," Kerry said.

Kerry, who said he wasn't a protectionist, has been trying to neutralize criticism of his past support for trade pacts such as NAFTA.

Teamsters President James Hoffa acknowledged that he and his membership have disagreed with Kerry's free-trade views in the past. But he said Kerry's meetings with struggling American workers on the campaign trail have helped him understand the dislocation that free-trade agreements have caused.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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