Legislature(1993 - 1994)
03/04/1993 05:00 PM ITT
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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 account." 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 states. 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. ADJOURNMENT CHAIR JAMES adjourned the meeting at 6:35.