BREWER (AP) – U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud denounced free trade agreements he says have cost more than 24,000 Mainers their jobs since 1994 in a speech before labor leaders Wednesday.

Michaud, D-Maine, said unfair trade agreements could lead to economic devastation for the state, the manufacturing industry and the entire nation.

“Manufacturing made this country what it is today, and if we’re not careful, we could end up like a third-world country,” Michaud said in a presentation to the Greater Bangor Central Labor Council.

Michaud, a former worker at Great Northern Paper in Millinocket, said U.S. corporations are unable to resist the appeal of lower wages, fewer benefits and freedom from strict environmental regulations overseas.

Michaud, who represents the vast 2nd Congressional District, recently introduced legislation to repeal the “fast track” authority that allows the president to negotiate foreign trade agreements and allows Congress only a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote.

“For Congress to give up its authority to amend trade policies is unconscionable,” he said.

“A lot of our problems are because of fast track.”

Michaud also has supported legislation to withdraw from NAFTA, he said.

“We need to go back to the drawing board and get this agreement right,” he said. “Maine is one of the states that has been hit hardest by NAFTA.”

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