Legislature(1993 - 1994)

03/04/1993 05:00 PM ITT

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
  HJR 20:  AMEND N. AMERICAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT                              
  Number 439                                                                   
  CHAIR JAMES next turned the committee's attention to the                     
  Committee Substitute for HJR 20 (CSHJR 20), stating that she                 
  did not intend to move it out at this meeting but wanted to                  
  hear testimony.                                                              
  Number 446                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE KAY BROWN, PRIME SPONSOR of HJR 20, asked                     
  that the overview paper be distributed, and said,  "I                        
  appreciate you taking this up.  I think this is an important                 
  state's rights issue.  The North American Free Trade                         
  Agreement, or NAFTA, was signed last year by the United                      
  States, Canada, and Mexico, and it's going to have major                     
  implications on the American states.  Many of these                          
  implications are uncertain right now.  There are some things                 
  we know that NAFTA is going to impose on the states.  We                     
  don't know, as this paper suggests, how all of those                         
  ramifications will play themselves out, but there are some                   
  examples that are troubling with respect to incursions into                  
  what have traditionally been the rights of states in all                     
  kinds of areas."                                                             
  REPRESENTATIVE BROWN continued, "And that is the purpose of                  
  my resolution, Madame Chair, to bring to the attention of                    
  our new president and Congress as they grapple with how to                   
  implement this free trade agreement, which the President has                 
  said that he supports but will not implement without                         
  additional protection for America, and he specifically                       
  referred to worker protection and the environment.  I wish                   
  that Alaska, and other states as well, would bring to his                    
  attention the fundamental changes that could occur if the                    
  rights of states are not considered and expressly written                    
  into these side agreements.  It is my understanding that the                 
  way this will work is that the free trade agreement itself                   
  is not subject to amendment, so the changes that the                         
  President has said he will seek will be either in side                       
  legislation or in side agreements, so we are timely in                       
  bringing up our concerns and asking that they be taken into                  
  Number 487                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE BROWN said, "One element to be aware of is                    
  that whenever the President does submit the agreement to                     
  congress, there was a previous law that set up this fast                     
  track process, and so from the time it's submitted the whole                 
  thing will be accrued to ninety days or Congress, I believe,                 
  only has ninety days to consider it, and they can't make any                 
  changes to it, so we need to express our opinion if we are                   
  going to do that in a timely way.  I am now referring to                     
  page two of the Center for Policy Alternatives report; about                 
  midway down there....is the most important issue....will the                 
  basic constitutional powers of American states be subject to                 
  international challenge under NAFTA?"                                        
  REPRESENTATIVE BROWN referred to pages five and six,                         
  "sanitary and photosanitary standards" within NAFTA, which                   
  determined how trade conditions would be considered, stating                 
  this was aimed at getting uniform trade standards worldwide                  
  and adding, "This is a good goal, but how much do we want to                 
  sacrifice everything else to that one goal?  I don't want to                 
  see our country enter into an agreement without thinking                     
  about what's going to happen to all things on the books in                   
  the states....I learned about this last summer at a workshop                 
  and then began trying to investigate what laws we had in                     
  Alaska that might be or would be coming under this and                       
  potentially subject to challenge, and we identified a number                 
  where we now give subsidies to particular industries, fish                   
  hatcheries or other things where we are putting the product                  
  procurement code where we give a preference to people who                    
  manufacture in Alaska.  Somebody who didn't get that benefit                 
  could challenge our law and say, 'This is a barrier to                       
  trade, because you are giving someone an unfair advantage                    
  over me.'"                                                                   
  Number 540                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE BROWN said, "I am concerned because I think                   
  that many good things have come out of our federal state                     
  system of the states having the ability to take on problems,                 
  experiment with solutions, work on things, and to harmonize                  
  everything to a standard that we don't know exactly what it                  
  is and how it will affect us, I think is at least raising                    
  the issue.  This resolution (SJR 20) doesn't say we're                       
  against free trade or against NAFTA; it says when you're                     
  looking into these other concerns please consider the rights                 
  of states.  And one particular thing that is of concern is                   
  the dispute resolution process.  If someone should challenge                 
  us, how would the state of Alaska defend a law that we had                   
  on the books or wanted to preserve?  Right now these                         
  procedures in the dispute resolution process are                             
  confidential and restricted only to federal officials being                  
  able to attend, so it's not even clear how we would                          
  participate when it was our law that was under attack."                      
  REPRESENTATIVE BROWN said further, "That seems like one of                   
  the major problems, and the states were not very involved,                   
  or state participation was not present, during the                           
  development of these.  They did have some advisory bodies,                   
  they had a lot of participation by various industries, but                   
  some of the concerns peculiar to the states and particularly                 
  the right to legislate and to try to give benefits to people                 
  who live in our state, to try to encourage economic                          
  development through incentives or things that are related to                 
  our state, would be questionable if they went into effect                    
  just like it is.  But because we have this opportunity and                   
  our president is looking at how he can make some                             
  modifications through side agreements, I think there is a                    
  good chance that some of these concerns could be addressed.                  
  They are valid concerns, and we would like to see Congress                   
  take it up."                                                                 
  Number 561                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked if this potential problem between                 
  federal and state could also lead to arguments between                       
  Number 568                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE BROWN said she had not thought of this, but                   
  it did seem possible.  She mentioned the referral on page 4                  
  to "GATT" which disallowed the favoring of local                             
  distributors over foreign exporters, thus showing how states                 
  could be brought into compliance by "the feds," adding that                  
  this was not merely theoretical.  She advised that when she                  
  attended a workshop last summer, this whole agreement was                    
  secret and no one even had a copy of it, but she now wanted                  
  to call people's attention to it.                                            
  Number 611                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE JIM NORDLUND asked how CSHJR 20 differed from                 
  HJR 20.                                                                      
  REPRESENTATIVE BROWN replied, "It (CSHJR 20) mostly fleshes                  
  it (HJR 20) out....It's (CSHJR 20) a little more explicit."                  
  Number 619                                                                   
  CHAIR JAMES read the attached letter from the Coalition of                   
  Labor Union Women into the record, and requested each                        
  committee member study the information regarding HJR 20.                     
  CHAIR JAMES adjourned the meeting at 6:35.                                   

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