Welcome to BillysWorld



Wed, Aug. 27, 2003 Charlotte Observer

Myrick criticizes Bush trade policies
President `out of touch,' she tells audience

Staff Writer

BELMONT - U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick lashed out Tuesday at President Bush, calling him "out of touch" on trade issues and saying voters won't forget it in the next election.

"If he doesn't care about us, we won't care about him come election time," Myrick, a Republican, told a Gaston Chamber of Commerce audience at Belmont Abbey College. "People are angry. I understand why they are angry, and I agree with why they are angry."

It's the first time Myrick has publicly spoken out against the administration. But she joins a growing chorus of Republicans criticizing the administration over trade issues following the closure of Kannapolis-based Pillowtex.

The loss of 4,800 N.C. Pillowtex jobs this summer prompted politicians to revive their calls for Bush to impose protections for manufacturing.

Among their proposals: resurrecting limits on certain imports from China, and pressuring the growing manufacturing powerhouse to let market forces determine the exchange rate of its currency, the yuan.

Myrick, whose 9th Congressional District covers Gaston County and parts of Mecklenburg and Union counties, said she is frustrated that the country continues to lose manufacturing jobs and that China has what she calls an unfair trade advantage. She noted that China's currency is valued 40 percent below U.S. currency, which gives China a huge advantage to produce cheaper goods.

Acknowledging she has been a free-trade proponent, Myrick says free trade is no longer working. While opponents had said free-trade pacts would decimate jobs in fields such as textiles, proponents -- including the White House -- said the United States would benefit from expanded global trade.

"We're not experiencing free trade in anything," she said. "If China doesn't devalue its currency or let it float on the open market, cut it off."

Critics say "fast-track" trade authority and other trade measures Bush pushed through with Vietnam and other countries can potentially add to the losses. And while most of the recent attention has gone to the massive Pillowtex job losses, Gaston and Cleveland counties have lost 7,367 jobs in the last two years, according to the Gaston chamber.

Gaston alone has lost more than 13,400 textile and apparel jobs since 1990, according to N.C. Employment Security Commission records. Only 6,621 of those jobs remained in 2002, the ESC says.

Nationwide, about half the textile and apparel jobs that existed in 1994 are gone.

Tuesday, Myrick said Americans should also accept responsibility. Not to pick on stores like Wal-Mart or Target, she said, but people need to reconsider before buying products made in other countries because they cost 50 cents or a dollar less.

While Bush has stepped forward to assist the steel industry with tariffs he imposed on steel imports, Myrick said he has not given the same support to textiles. But Myrick said she is hopeful that a new congressional manufacturing caucus will help give the industry a strong voice that will influence the administration.

In a recent meeting to teach textile leaders how to lobby the federal government, about 30 senior executives of textile companies said they would lobby for limits on textile products China can send to the United States each year. The executives represent companies such as Springs Industries, Milliken and Co. and Avondale Mills.

Manufacturers in Tuesday's audience applauded Myrick's message.

"We have got to get the country focused on building jobs," said David Richeson, president of Stabilus, a Gastonia manufacturing firm that produces automotive gas and hydraulic springs.

The president's approval rating and number of people who say they would vote for him again both recently slipped, he pointed out. Jobs and the economy are the No. 1 issues the Bush administration needs to deal with, Richeson said.

"If the administration isn't getting the message, we need to scream louder until they hear us," he said.