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Rep. Keith Ellison Trans Pacific Partnership Pocan Calls for Increased Transparency on Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement to Protect American Jobs
Friday, 14 June 2013 00:00

Pocan Calls for Increased Transparency on Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement to Protect American Jobs

Written by  Rep. Mark Pocan | Press Release

Pocan urges Congress not to give up its constitutional authority to oversee foreign trade agreements

Almost 20 years after the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that continues to gut the American manufacturing industry and export American jobs, negotiations on a new massive foreign trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement (FTA), continue in secret, with little to no-oversight from Congress. In response, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-02) last week led a letter with 35 other freshman lawmakers calling for increased transparency from the administration on TPP and urging Congress not to give up its constitutional authority to oversee foreign trade agreements.

“Too often, our country’s trade agreements have been a bad deal for American industries and for the American worker,” Pocan said. “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 TPP is a trade agreement currently being negotiated between the United States and 11 other countries bordering the Pacific Ocean. The Constitution provides Congress with the authority to oversee all international trade agreements, but the administration is seeking to reinstitute a process called “fast track negotiating authority” or “trade promotion authority,” which would speed up the trade agreement approval process by delegating wide swaths of Congress’s power to oversee international trade to the executive branch. If implemented, Congress would vote to accept or reject a trade agreement, but would be unable to amend the text.

Given these circumstances, Pocan and his colleagues are strongly opposed to attempts to have Congress give up its constitutional responsibility to regulate trade.

“Congress needs to work together to get American trade policy back on track - not give away its authority to do so,” the members wrote. “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.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, five million Americans have lost manufacturing jobs since the passage of NAFTA.

In addition to Pocan, the letter was signed by U.S. Reps. Ron Barber (AZ-02), Joyce Beatty (OH-03), Ami Bera (CA-07), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Matthew A. Cartwright (PA-17), William L. Enyart (IL-12), Bill Foster (IL-11), Lois Frankel (FL-22), Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02), Pete P. Gallego (TX-23), Joe Garcia (FL-26), Alan Grayson (FL-09), Steven A. Horsford (NV-04), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Hakeem S. Jeffries (NY-08), Joseph P. Kennedy III (MA-04), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-01), Annie McLane Kuster (NH-02), Alan S. Lowenthal (CA-47), Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-01), Daniel B. Maffei (NY-24), Patrick Murphy (FL-18), Gloria Negrete McLeod (CA-35) , Richard M. Nolan (MN-08), Beto O’Rourke (TX-16), Donald M. Payne Jr. (NJ-10), Raul Ruiz (CA-36), Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01), Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09), Eric M. Swalwell (CA-15), Mark Takano (CA-41), Dina Titus (NV-01), Juan Vargas (CA-51), and Marc A. Veasey (TX-33).

The full text of the letter is below and attached:

The Honorable Sander M. Levin
Ranking Member Ways and Means Committee
1106 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Cc: The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Dear Ranking Member Levin:

We look forward to working with you to establish United States trade policies that promote the creation of American jobs and support our national economic interests while safeguarding Congress’s prerogatives to determine what domestic policies best promote the public interest. As the economy continues to recover from the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression, we can all agree that 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. Job offshoring was a major issue in the previous election that unites our constituents - Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike. Polling consistently shows that Americans oppose our past model of “trade” agreements that facilitate offshoring, undermine Buy American policies, and subject American laws to review by foreign tribunals empowered to order payment of unlimited U.S. tax dollars to foreign firms that seek to avoid playing by the same rules as U.S. firms.

Thus, we write with serious concerns about both the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement (TPP FTA) now being negotiated by the Obama administration and the prospect of Congress delegating wide swaths of its Constitutional authority to regulate trade (Article 1, Section 8) to the president through “Fast Track” or any other open-ended delegation of “trade promotion” authority. In the last Congress, two-thirds of House Democrats joined together on a letter to President Obama demanding access to the draft TPP FTA texts and raising concerns about how the pact could internationally preempt Congress’s domestic policymaking prerogatives.

They wrote: “Since the United States will be obliged to bring existing and future U.S. policies into compliance with the norms established in the TPP FTA, the negotiations USTR is pursuing will create binding policies on future Congresses in numerous areas. These could include those related to labor, patent and copyright, land use, food, agriculture and product standards, natural resources, the environment, professional licensing, state-owned enterprises and government procurement policies, as well as financial, healthcare, energy, telecommunications and other service sector regulations.” Unfortunately, today TPP FTA talks continue in extreme secrecy. The administration has yet to release draft texts after more than three years of negotiations, and the few TPP FTA texts that have leaked reveal serious problems. Thus, we are especially concerned about any action that would transfer Congress’s exclusive constitutional trade authority to the president. 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. Indeed, given the vast scope of today’s “trade” agreements, we do not believe that a broad delegation of Congress’s constitutional trade authority is generally appropriate.

Negotiations on the TPP FTA delve deeply into many non-trade matters under the authority of Congress and state legislatures. If completed, the TPP FTA would lock in policies on these non-trade matters that could not be altered without consent of all other signatory countries. Thus, ensuring Congress has a robust role in the formative aspects of trade agreements is vital. We are all deeply committed to creating jobs in our communities and across the country. To do so effectively, we believe it is critical that Congress maintains its authority to ensure American trade agreements are a good deal for the American people.

Sincerely,

U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan (WI-02), Ron Barber (AZ-02), Joyce Beatty (OH-03), Ami Bera (CA-07), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Matthew A. Cartwright (PA-17), William L. Enyart (IL-12), Bill Foster (IL-11), Lois Frankel (FL-22), Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02), Pete P. Gallego (TX-23), Joe Garcia (FL-26), Alan Grayson (FL-09), Steven A. Horsford (NV-04), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Hakeem S. Jeffries (NY-08), Joseph P. Kennedy III (MA-04), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-01), Annie McLane Kuster (NH-02), Alan S. Lowenthal (CA-47), Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-01), Daniel B. Maffei (NY-24), Patrick Murphy (FL-18), Gloria Negrete McLeod (CA-35) , Richard M. Nolan (MN-08), Beto O’Rourke (TX-16), Donald M. Payne Jr. (NJ-10), Raul Ruiz (CA-36), Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01), Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09), Eric M. Swalwell (CA-15), Mark Takano (CA-41), Dina Titus (NV-01), Juan Vargas (CA-51), and Marc A. Veasey (TX-33).

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