EPI President Thea Lee testified before the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, Subcommittee on Trade about how the U.S. government can create and enforce better rules—both in international trade and domestic policy—to benefit American workers.
Rather than continue to focus narrowly on tweaking the specific provisions of an outdated model, Lee argued, we should step back and reexamine our ultimate goals and the tools available.
“The problem is not that particular trade barriers are too high or that the volume of trade is too low, or that we don’t have a deal with a specific country,” Lee said. “Rather, the problem is that trade policy has undermined our goals of rising living standards for working families, good jobs, strong communities, safe consumer products, and a healthy environment.”
In her testimony, Lee outlined three broad steps policymakers should take to implement a new pro-worker trade policy:
- Ensure that American manufacturers’ ability to compete in global markets is not hamstrung by a chronically overvalued dollar, as it has been for decades
- Ensure that the rules of international trade and investment do not privilege corporate interests and profits over those of workers and typical households
- Consistently and aggressively enforce our own trade laws, and use existing international mechanisms to make sure other countries’ policies do not lead to an unlevel playing field
“U.S. trade policy over the last couple of decades has been exactly backward. Our trade agreements have privileged outsourcing and corporate profits over good jobs—undermining our manufacturing sector and exacerbating inequality—policymakers have shortchanged infrastructure investments and education, and our tax code has incentivized offshore production,” said Lee. “It is past time to reorient all levers of economic policy—both international and domestic—to ensure that the gains of globalization filter through to help, not harm, American workers.”