New Englanders want say on trade policy
The Associated Press | December 19,2007
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Legislators from Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont want the government to give states more of a voice in international trade.
The leaders of three state commissions on international trade are concerned about the impact trade agreements have on their states.
"If states are to be bound by the provisions of international trade agreements, then the federal government must do a better job working with the states to understand their concerns," said Sen. Peggy Rotundo, co-Chair of the Maine Citizen Trade Policy Commission.
N.H. Sen. Jackie Cilley said it's become increasingly clear since the establishment of the World Trade Organization and passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement that the international agreements do affect state sovereignty.
"Whether it's managing groundwater permits, regulating unsafe toys or using our tax dollars to buy products made in the state, international trade rules can make it harder for us to represent our constituents," said Cilley, who heads New Hampshire's state-level oversight commission on international trade.
Vermont Sen. Virginia Lyons, who chairs the Commission on International Trade and State Sovereignty in Vermont, said she was stunned to learn that foreign investors could challenge the rules and laws passed by Vermonters.
"What New Englander would be comfortable with a situation where decisions made in secret by an international trade or investment body can second-guess decisions made in a town meeting," she said.
The three said they haven't been able to get the federal government to take their concerns seriously.
Members of the state-level trade commissions from Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, along with legislative and citizen leaders from elsewhere in the northeast, met in Portsmouth recently to explore ways to work together on trade.
They pledged to review options for improving federal-state communication on trade and invited other states to join their call for a better state-federal partnership.
The three legislators say the Office of the United States Trade Representative relies on input from three dozen advisory committees' on trade, but that 35 of the committees are dominated by industry representatives, and only one has members drawn from state and local governments.
Lyons said the three groups support a time-out' on signing new free trade agreements "to allow us to overhaul the broken system of consultation on trade."