Press Release

October 12, 2011

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), a member of the Senate Finance and Foreign Relations Committees, issued the following statement on the Senate approval of bilateral trade agreements with Korea, Panama and Colombia:

“I strongly believe that international trade is good for America, but it must be done properly.  Such international agreements can boost our country’s ties with like-minded nations that share our values, helping to strengthen alliances and advancing American interests abroad.  American workers can compete with any other workers in the world, but the playing field must be fair and have enforceable rules.  Formal trade agreements between nations must be based on international standards and protect workers, both at home and with our trading partners.  Trade must not reduce us all to the lowest common-denominator.

“I am disappointed by the passage of the Colombia-U.S. bilateral trade agreement.  Colombia’s human rights abuses, as well as intimidation and violence against labor leaders, have been documented by the U.S. State Department as recently as 2010. Trade with America is a benefit for deserving nations that share our values, especially with respect to labor rights. Given Colombia’s history and the weakness of enforcement provisions in this specific agreement, I could not support its approval.  As a nation, we cannot condone sacrificing the rights of workers in the name of trade.”

“South Korea is an important ally with a rising standard of living and it represents the largest, most industrialized economy with which the United States has considered a major trade agreement with in nearly two decades. Given the significance of this market, I voted against the trade agreement with South Korea because I felt that it did not go far enough to level the playing field for U.S. companies.  Non-tariff barriers would continue to block access to the Korean market for U.S. goods for important products, like autos and textiles. In addition, the weak domestic content or ‘sourcing’ provisions in the agreement would allow products predominantly made outside of Korea to be given favorable duty-free access to the U.S., skirting the intent of the base agreement.”