Twenty-five Iowa labor and farm organizations are using the 10th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement — NAFTA — to call for fairer trade pacts. Bill Holland, a spokesman for the Iowa Fair Trade Campaign, says they hope to catch the attention of the democratic presidential candidates who are criss-crossing the state. Holland says Iowa has lost 30-thousand jobs due to NAFTA and in Mexico, manufacturing wages have declined in a “race to the bottom” that means Mexican consumers are less likely to buy expensive American-made goods. Holland says the Bush Administration wants to expand NAFTA into what’s called the Free Trade Area of the Americas. He says any trade agreement should raise environmental and labor standards rather than lower them. Holland says members of the Iowa Free Trade Campaign are button-holing the presidential candidates on the issue.All five of the candidates who are actively campaigning in Iowa say they would impose new labor and environmental standards in future trade agreements. Missouri Congressman Richard Gephardt points out he is the only candidate who voted against NAFTA ten years ago and he promises to negotiate an international minimum wage. Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich promises to repeal NAFTA and the World Trade Organization. And former Vermont Governor Howard Dean says he supported NAFTA 10 years ago, but has since changed his mind after visiting with Iowans who worry about their job security and have lost their faith in American institutions, like their employer and their government. North Carolina Senator John Edwards says his hometown has been badly hurt by NAFTA as a mill was shut down and the jobs moved out of the country. Massachusetts Senator John Kerry is the son of a U.S. diplomat and Kerry says he’d negotiate better trade agreements that raise environmental standards around the globe.
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