John Kerry accused President Bush of failing to enforce trade agreements that protect U.S. workers as the Democratic presidential candidate kicked off a tour of four industrial states Monday.
Kerry said Bush is not taking action to stop jobs from going overseas, such as aggressively filing unfair-trade cases with the World Trade Organization, or WTO.
“Our trade agreements ought to be enforced and they ought to be enforced tough to give America faith that the government is on their side,” Kerry said. He encouraged voters to “put someone in charge who understands what’s happening to the average worker.”
Kerry’s speech marks the start of a three-day bus tour through West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan. The four states combined have lost more than 470,000 manufacturing jobs during Bush’s presidency, according to figures by the Bureau of Labor Statistics cited by the Kerry campaign.
Kerry traveled nearly 1,000 feet below ground to tour a mine in Glen Easton, W.Va. When mine workers asked about how he would create more jobs, Kerry criticized Bush and said the government should invest in building more schools, roads and buildings. Such infrastructure investments would put 50,000 people to work for $1 billion, he said.
“This guy, he’s giving tax cuts to the wealthiest people in the country and we don’t invest smart,” Kerry said.
Mine workers back Kerry
The United Mine Workers of America endorsed Kerry on Monday, saying members thought he would do a “a better job protecting coal miners’ health and safety and will be more interested in the issues important to all working and retired Americans.”
Democrats say Bush could be vulnerable in the four states he was touring because they have been hit particularly hard with job losses and record trade deficits. The states were hard fought during the 2000 election, with Bush winning West Virginia and Ohio and Democrat Al Gore winning Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Polls taken during recent weeks show Bush with a slight edge in Pennsylvania but statistically tied with Kerry in the other three states.
A spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign, Steve Schmidt, noted Monday that Kerry voted in the Senate for a number of international trade pacts, including the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“Now he has taken up an anti-free trade rhetoric because he believes it may benefit him politically. It’s another example of John Kerry being both for and against a major issue,” Schmidt said.
A report released Monday by the Kerry campaign says Bush has presided over a “dramatic deterioration in our trade position,” according to a summary.
“Year after year, he has consistently failed to represent U.S. interests in the global economy,” the summary says.
Chinese software piracy cited
With China, for example, the report says the administration has taken limited action on software piracy from China and the country’s unfair trade policies for cotton, poultry, soybeans, wheat and high-tech products. It also says Bush has not provided relief to American workers and companies hurt by increased imports from China.
The United States had a trade deficit of $124 billion last year with China. That’s the largest deficit ever recorded with a single country.
Kerry’s report notes that the administration has filed just 10 WTO cases during his three years in office, compared to 65 during the last six years of the Clinton administration. Democrats in Congress have also complained about that record.
Kerry offered a six-part plan to enforce trade agreements, including efforts to strengthen worker’s rights, eliminate abusive child labor and stop illegal currency manipulation. He said he would double the U.S. Trade Representative’s budget for enforcement and create an advocacy office there for small businesses.