Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Trade bill blitz must be stopped cold

Trade-a-palooza is about to begin in the House. But unlike the famous music festival, there is nothing to enjoy when it comes to the consideration of these series of bills that could be voted on this week. Instead, these measures could hurt both American producers and workers.

Trade bills should help workers. But these don't.
It starts with consideration of legislation in the House that could repeal U.S. country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for meat, which informs consumers where an animal was born, raised and slaughtered. The move was necessitated by a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling last month that stated American labeling puts Canadian and Mexican goods at a disadvantage.

Consumers have been up in arms about the forced policy change, and rightfully so. In fact, some 283 rural, food and agricultural groups signed onto a letter calling on the House to reject the effort to repeal COOL rules.

As they stated in the letter:
It is premature for the Congress to unilaterally surrender to saber-rattling from our trading partners in the midst of a long-standing dispute. COOL opponents have highlighted Mexico and Canada’s threats of retaliation as if their aspiration to seek billions of dollars in penalties were already approved by the WTO. But these unapproved, unrealistically high retaliation claims are merely aggressive litigation tactics designed to frighten the United States — a standard practice in WTO disputes. Congress should not fall for it.
Of course, that is only the start of the trade-related madness. In back-to-back votes that could come as soon as tomorrow, the House will vote on Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and fast track measures that could lead to tens of thousands of U.S. jobs being shipped overseas and leave the workers left jobless with little support.

As Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa wrote in the Huffington Post:
TAA will be considered concurrently as the House mulls fast track. That's intentional, as it's supposed to give cover to those who vote in favor of fast track to show they are looking out for workers who are going to be hit hard by agreements like the 12-nation TPP that will be implemented if the trade promotion vehicle is approved. But all that will happen is workers will get hammered even more. 
We can't allow that to happen. That's why the Teamsters and many other unions signed onto a letter sent to House lawmakers yesterday. It lets elected officials know they are not doing hardworking Americans any favors by supporting TAA in this form.
And of course, there's fast track. It allows Congress to give a quick up-or-down vote on lousy trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It is the gateway to a perilous future for American workers and consumers.

This is it, brothers and sisters. The critical moment is upon us. The House will soon vote on these measures that will shape the U.S. economy for decades to come. To that end, it's time to contact your lawmakers (again if necessary) and remind them to only support fair trade measures that put people before the powerful.