AG Partners: Challenging Trade Statistics


WASHINGTON (DTN) --- Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a vigorous opponent of granting President Barack Obama trade promotion authority, lashed out Thursday at USDA officials over the administration's use of export statistics to convince members of Congress to support trade agreements.

[Reposted from AG Partners LLC  |   Jerry Hagstrom  |  March 20, 2015]

At a House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee budget hearing, DeLauro, a Democrat from Connecticut, asked USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Administrator Phil Karsting to explain a report showing that U.S. beef exports to Korea had fallen since the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement was signed.

Karsting explained that the two years that DeLauro was citing were an anomaly because Korea's herds had depopulated before the first year cited and the country had imported more beef than usual at that time.

DeLauro then read off a series of reports on agriculture exports falling and imports rising and asked how the administration could justify moving forward with the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Karsting pointed out that the world will have 9 billion people by the year 2050 and appeared to be about to make the administration's point that if the United States does not take the lead on trade with Asia, China will convince the other Asian countries to join an agreement that will have lower environmental and labor standards.

But DeLauro interrupted him and with her voice rising said, "Don't talk to me about China." If the administration wants to "deal with China and the rules of the road," the trade legislation should have a currency manipulation provision, she added.

Administration officials should not call her "a luddite or say 'you don't understand,'" DeLauro said, because trade agreements frequently have been "nothing but a detriment to American workers and farmers."

Citing trade statistics from the U.S. International Trade Commission, DeLauro said that the data "is yours, not mine. Let's come up with a new trade paradigm."

After DeLauro, a former chairwoman of the subcommittee, stopped speaking, Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., the current chairman, quietly said that he, too, has had problems with some trade agreements.

DeLauro's confrontation at the hearing followed a news conference Thursday at which she and eight other Democrats disputed Trade Representative Michael Froman's claim to the Democratic caucus on Monday that the United States enjoys trade surpluses with its partners in free trade agreements.

At the news conference, DeLauro said, "The numbers Ambassador Froman is using to substantiate this claim are plainly misleading and count goods that merely pass through the U.S. on their way to somewhere else. You do not need a Ph.D. in economics to know this is disingenuous at best. Calling them U.S. exports is just plain wrong."

"Ambassador Froman needs to check his math on America's trade agreements," added Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio.

"Even with numbers padded heavily with re-exports, our trade imbalances have ballooned with every new trade deal, especially in automotive manufacturing," Kaptur said.

"Those deficits mean real jobs lost and wages cut for America's working families. This is not the first time a bad trade deal has been sold to Congress and the American people on a failed promise of increased exports and jobs, but it needs to be the last."

DeLauro, Kaptur and Reps. Keith Ellison, D-Minn. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., Alan Grayson, D-Fla., Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, Mark Pocan, D-Wis., wrote Froman a letter demanding a response regarding the trade data by Monday.

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