Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Freshmen House Dems: 'Don't give away our authority on trade deals'

Thirty-six freshmen U.S. House Democrats are urging colleagues to speak out on "fast-track" trade authority and the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

They want Congress to carefully vet the TPP to make sure it's in the best interests of American families. And they are skeptical of fast-track negotiations that derail the job Congress is supposed to do.

President Obama is expected to ask for fast-track authority, which would prevent Congress from amending the trade deal that is being negotiated in extreme secrecy. The 36 freshmen  sent a letter today to the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Sander Levin. The letter said fast track would make it hard to fix a trade policy that lets big corporations ship jobs overseas:
We cannot afford to have American production and American jobs sent offshore because of unfair trade agreements that undermine our economic growth. When jobs and production factories are offshored, American wages are lost, American-made products decline, and our international interests are compromised.
The signers also said Congress should not forfeit its constitutional authority to review foreign trade agreements.

Rep. Mark Pocan from Wisconsin announced the delivery of the letter in a news release:
Too often, our country’s trade agreements have been a bad deal for American industries and for the American worker. As a small business owner, I’ve seen the number of Made in America products available to me dwindle sharply in the past decade because of the unintended consequences of so-called “free” trade agreements. Congress cannot repeat the mistakes of the past by standing by and blindly agreeing to new trade agreements without proper regulation. The administration should make the draft TPP FTA texts public and allow Congress to conduct our constitutionally-mandated oversight so we can ensure economic growth here in America.
The new legislators want to avoid creating another NAFTA, which continues to pummel the nation's manufacturing job base 20 years after it was signed. Five million Americans have lost manufacturing jobs since its passage. Capitol Hill should watch out for U.S. workers, they said in the letter:
Congress needs to work together to get American trade policy back on track -- not give away its authority to do so. Reducing our authority to ensure our trade agreements serve the public interest will undermine our efforts to create American jobs and to reform a misguided trade policy that has devastated our manufacturing base through the offshoring of American production and American jobs. 
The 36 House Democrats said Americans opposed previous trade agreements like NAFTA. The public is also wary of trade rules that trade good American jobs and benefits for lost jobs, lower wages and dangerous products, they said.

The Teamsters strongly support the 36 freshmen. No one doubts the value of trade, but not if it puts American workers at a disadvantage and American consumers at risk. And we certainly don't need politicians pulling a fast one on American workers with fast-track legislation that prevents members of Congress from amending it to make sure every provision is in the interest of American families.

Stay tuned.