CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) - Democratic presidential contender John Edwards called for pro-worker provisions in trade deals and greater investment to aid displaced workers as he offered his trade policy on Monday.
Campaigning in Iowa, Edwards said the economy is growing and productivity is at an all-time high, but wages aren't keeping pace with the increased costs of education, health care and retirement. He blamed technological change and globalization, as well as outdated labor and workplace laws for a system that is benefiting the wealthiest and shortchanging workers.
"Trade has become a bad word for working Americans for a simple reason: our trade policy has been bad for working Americans," Edwards said. "We need new trade policies that put workers, wages and families first."
Edwards said his plan would:
- Require pro-worker provisions in new deals.
- Hold trade partners to their commitments.
- Invest more in dislocated workers and communities.
- Ensure that imports are safe
If a trade deal doesn't meet those standards, Edwards said the U.S. shouldn't enter into the agreement. He added that trade agreements should be judged by their effect on regular families and strong rights for workers rather than potential benefits to corporations, such as he said was the case with agreements like NAFTA.
Edwards, the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee, also called for a "Training Works" initiative to help prepare workers for high-wage jobs. And if a community faces layoffs, Edwards said he would offer assistance to workers, unions and local officials. He would also strengthen unemployment benefits for workers who lose their jobs.
If elected, Edwards said he would require trade partners to meet environmental standards so multinational companies don't profit by exploiting the environment. If the U.S. caps greenhouse emissions, he said he would make sure trade agreements encouraged the same from other nations.