Iowa’s congressional delegation voted along party lines on the trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama that passed the U.S. House and Senate Wednesday. Republican Representatives Tom Latham and Steve King vote for the agreements along with Republican Senator Chuck Grassley.
Democrat Congressmen Dave Loebsack, Leonard Boswell and Bruce Braley voted “no”, as did Democrat Senator Tom Harkin. Harkin says all the estimates he has seen say the agreements will increase the trade deficit of America. “What is it we don’t get about our trade deficit,” Harkin asked.
He says the U.S. keeps making deals to “take away manufacturing jobs, increase our trade deficit” and increase the likelihood that we will borrow more money from China in the future. Harkin says the negative impacts of the agreements outweighed any increase in trade.
Harkin says the agreements will cost jobs in America, and he says it was a tough vote because the estimates say the agreements will increase agriculture exports. “And that’s beneficial obviously for the Midwest, but it’s going to decrease our manufacturing jobs in America, and that’s not good, you weigh those,” Harkin said.
Congressman Loebsack issued a statement saying,” at a time when our economy is struggling to recover, Congress should be focusing on creating jobs and promoting recovery, not threatening to ship Iowans’ jobs overseas.” And Boswell said the nation cannot allow trade agreements that only benefit big corporations at the expense of the working class.
“This shaky trade legislation is not a true job-creator,” Boswell said. “The reality is these deals put tens of thousands of jobs on the line during an especially difficult time for our country. Let us not forget the effects of previous trade agreements on our communities – the most vivid example being Newton when thousands of workers lost their jobs after the Maytag plant closure.”
Congressman Latham’s statement on the vote said: “Approval of these free trade agreements will create jobs across our state and open new markets for Iowa products and commodities. This is an important step in the right direction toward putting America back to work.”
Senator Grassley issued a statement that said in part: “Exports have an important part to play in the economic recovery effort. Private sector employers need an international trade agenda that opens new doors to sell U.S. agricultural goods, manufactured products and services. These votes in the Senate are a very important step in the right direction, but they were delayed unnecessarily for years, and the rest of the world is moving ahead without us.”
Congressman King had this to say about the agreements: “The Free Trade Agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama will provide a boost to Iowa’s economy by opening overseas markets to Iowa’s goods. “The benefits of increased trade with these countries will be particularly evident in Iowa’s agriculture sector, as these three FTA’s are expected to increase Iowa’s agriculture exports by $162 million a year and to create over 1,400 new agriculture related jobs in the state. I am pleased to support these important trade deals, and I look forward to Iowa receiving the economic benefits their enactment will provide.”
President Obama, a Democrat, supports the agreements.
(This story was updated at 11:33 to include comments from Congressman King)