In a House press conference this afternoon, House Speaker
Thomas Foley was joined by members Vic Fazio (D-CA), Vice Chair of the
House Democratic Caucus and Chair of the Democratic Congressional
Campaign Committee, and Freshman Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) to publicly
endorse NAFTA. In voicing his support Fazio said, "California stands to
gain 30,000 to 40,000 jobs over the next two years, and the country
gains 200,000 jobs after the enactment of NAFTA." Arguing that NAFTA
was a "unique" opportunity for the U.S., Fazio said, "if we don't take
it, if we allow others like the Japanese and Europeans to take it, they
will not only have been able to cement their own trading blocks, but
destroy the chance we have to put America's trading blocks together,
giving ourselves an opportunity for the long haul, for the future."
Freshman Rep. Inslee stated that he was "optimistic [NAFTA] is
going to pass because it is my experience that when the truth is told
about NAFTA and the truth reaches the American people, the American
people will support it."
Other members attending were Robert Matsui (D-CA), the
Majority Whip at Large who is rallying NAFTA votes in the House,
Chairman Sam Gibbons of the House Ways & Means Trade Subcommittee and
Reps. David McCurdy (D-OK), James Moran (D-VA), and David Skaggs (D-CO),
as well as Democratic National Committee Chair David Wilhelm.
In a long-expected move, Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-MO)
announced that he will oppose NAFTA. While he was critical of aspects
of the agreement, Gephardt praised the administration's "important
progress" in certain areas such as having minimum wages, child labor,
and health and safety covered under the dispute settlement system, as
well as Mexico's unilateral pledge to tie minimum wages to productivity.
When asked about Gephardt's opposition, White House Spokesperson Dee Dee
Myers said "we knew this fight wouldn't be easy. When we began we knew
that even some in our own party would oppose us. But it's the right
thing to do; it's good for jobs, and good for America." Senate Majority
Leader George Mitchell said that he would make a statement in support of
NAFTA, "so we have one majority leader for it and one against it today."
With the implementation of NAFTA, the Commerce Department
estimates that the Big Three automakers could see $1 Billion in new
sales to Mexico in the first year of the agreement. This translates
into 15,000 jobs in the auto and supplier industries in the first year