By  on August 28, 2007

Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich said canceling the North American Free Trade Agreement and withdrawing from the World Trade Organization should be the first steps in making domestic apparel manufacturers more competitive globally.

Asked about U.S. manufacturing after arriving in Portland, Maine, on Saturday, Kucinich said, "There needs to be a whole new set of standards for trade based on workers' rights. They need the right to organize, the right to collect fair wages, the right to decent working conditions, the right to a secure retirement and to prohibit child labor. We also need quality environmental principles in relation to air, water and land."

To highlight that such efforts are not out of the question, Kucinich, an Ohio Congressman, noted that years ago members of the needle trade industry were instrumental in advancing workers' rights for a variety of industries, including nonapparel industries.

"America was once the capital for textiles, but it's lost its leadership role because trade agreements have not offered the kind of protection that workers here have," he said. Kucinich, a former Cleveland mayor, said that city's woolen mills have all closed — the type of transition written about in Jane Jacobs' 1969 book "The Economy of Cities."

"NAFTA accelerated it for the few industries we had left in this country,'' he said. "All of a sudden, any labor-intense industries, like that they were gone. Of course, there were other factors that change like technology and laser-cutting machines."

"Trade is a major issue in this election,'' he said. "I have brought it up in every political forum....When trade goes to other countries — it's a race to the bottom in every way."

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