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DEMOS PLAYING POLITICS ON TRADE PACT, HATCH SAYS

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Thursday that Democrats who say President Bush is not working with Congress on the proposed North American Free Trade Agreement are simply playing partisan politics.

"Congress has been an active participant," said Hatch, who is a member of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Trade, which directly oversees such agreements."Administration officials have held several weekly briefings with congressional staff members. There is absolutely nothing in the agreements that the principal trade committees in Congress have not been long aware of," he said.

Hatch says Democrats are unfairly describing a new $10 million displaced worker assistance program as needed primarily to help those who would be thrown out of work by the agreement moving some jobs to Mexico.

"The new program will consolidate all existing assistance opportunities for dislocated workers and those losing jobs because of trade, defense budget cuts or environmental policies," Hatch said.

He added, "I know of very few Democrats who are opposed to the defense cuts and environmental policies causing these job losses."

Hatch said Democratic critics are trying to mask real job creation the agreement will create. "Trade generated 20,000 jobs for every $1 billion of U.S. exports to Mexico, a 300 percent growth in the past five years."

Hatch added, "Utah environmental and mining equipment manufacturers, medical device and biotechnology companies and electronic goods sellers, among other providers of goods and services, are already beating a path to the Mexican market."