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Congressman Bruce Poliquin

Representing the 2nd District of Maine

Trade deal unfair to Maine companies

May 1, 2016
In The News

Through the years, international trade deals have hurt many workers and families in Maine's 2nd Congressional District and also the businesses that employ them.

When I was growing up in Central Maine, the cities and towns were humming with paper mills, shoe factories, tanneries and textile-spinning and woolen mills. And with those thriving businesses came thousands of good-paying jobs. The schools and churches were full, and the neighborhoods were beehives of safe activities for us kids.
My Grandmother Bouchard was a terrific seamstress who made the finest shirts in the world at Hathaway Shirts in Waterville. It closed about 10 years ago.

My late brother worked at the Cascade Woolen Mill in Oakland. That's gone.

I worked the night shift at the Wyandotte Spinning Mill in Sidney to help pay for school. It is now closed, along with Scott Paper just across the Kennebec.

Every time a factory or mill closes it devastates that community. Some families are forced to leave or go on public assistance. Many young workers leave the state because there are so few jobs available here. Schools close and hospitals struggle. The fabric of the towns unwinds. It is very sad to experience and I have experienced it too often.

Today, there are only a handful of mills and factories left. Maine officials must do everything humanly possible to help them survive and grow. We must protect those good-paying jobs with benefits.

Government at all levels has a limited role but elected officials should push for lower electricity, heating oil and gasoline costs. That is exactly what I am doing in Congress. Cheaper energy will help keep Maine's remaining plants competitive with those in other states and other countries. Then, they can better sell their products and keep jobs open.

Elected officials must also push for lower taxes and for fair and predictable regulations to help employers succeed. That is exactly what I am doing in Congress. For those people who have run businesses and created jobs, that is just common sense.

Maine businesses, of course, need markets to sell their products throughout America and around the world. But, some forces are beyond our control, like the declining demand for paper as more of people's daily lives are conducted by means of the Internet.

‎When it comes to trade with other countries, the deal must be fair for Maine workers and employers. The playing field must be level. We are Americans. We are Mainers. We can compete and win against any state or country, but the rules must be fair. The government cannot cede any advantage to any other country.

During the past several months, I have pored through the 2,000 pages of a new international trade agreement negotiated by the Obama administration with 11 other countries in the Pacific Rim. I have reached out and heard from thousands of 2nd District workers and their employers concerning the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.

During my research, I have received lots of pressure from powerful interests wanting me to support their goals. I don't work for them. I don't work for businesses in Japan or Vietnam. I work for 650,000 of the most honest and hard-working families in the 2nd District of Maine.

After months of careful and thorough analysis, I have concluded that the proposed TPP international trade agreement is not in the best interest of 2nd District workers and their families.‎ I don't believe this deal gives Maine a fair shot. As a result, I do not support it.

This is not a Democrat issue or a Republican issue. It is about jobs, Maine jobs.

I am all for free and fair trade, but the deal must help, not harm, families and the state.

Last year, President Obama visited a Nike athletic shoe factory on the West Coast to promote the TPP agreement. Nike outsources thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs. The president could have done himself more good by visiting one of the New Balance shoe factories in Skowhegan, Norridgewock or Norway. That is where 900 of the most skilled shoemakers in the world manufacture 100 percent American-made shoes — the best in the world.

Last year, I voted twice against giving the president fast-track trade authority. Negotiating secretive, complex trade deals without the involvement of the people’s representatives is not fair and is hurtful to American workers and companies that employ American workers, like New Balance.

The job of all of public officials is to stand up and do what is right to help workers. As Maine's 2nd District Congressman, I will always fight tooth and nail for every single Maine job.