Thirty years in the private sector has taught me that problem solving requires all parties to work together to get the best results. As a member of Congress now, I believe that lesson is even more important in making policy.
[Reposted from the Burlington County Times | Rep. Tom MacArthur | March 31, 2015]
Despite this, the Obama administration has not worked cooperatively with Congress while negotiating new trade agreements, especially the TransPacific Partnership agreement between 11 Pacific nations and the United States. This is a red flag that the best interests of the American economy, corporate and labor alike, are not being well-served. Now, President Barack Obama is requesting Trade Promotion Authority, also known as Fast Track, which would force Congress to vote on his trade agreements without any opportunity to offer suggestions or amendments. Over the last seven years, we’ve seen what happens when Obama tries to work alone. Constant refusals to talk with Congress on difficult legislation, secret discussions on relations with Cuba that harm American interests, repeated unsuccessful attempts to compromise with Iran at great risk to our allies: Obama has failed time and time again to produce positive results.
As an entrepreneur who created and preserved thousands of American jobs, I’m convinced that these trade deals need to be negotiated with as much input as possible. Rewarding Obama with Fast Track Authority to negotiate an international trade deal of this size when he’s proven he’s not interested in working with Congress would be a mistake for both American businesses and workers.
My top priority is always considering how we can create jobs and grow our economy, and I believe my experience in the private sector is helpful when seeking ways to do that. That’s why I support policies that give businesses room to grow while creating new and better-paying jobs for Americans. While government can often be a roadblock in that effort, there are ways it can help. For example, policies that encourage corporate profitability and promote job growth and labor protections are why I sided with both business and organized labor in supporting the Keystone XL pipeline, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program, and the Export-Import Bank.
As for trade agreements, they can have incredible benefits all across the board, but I believe this is best accomplished with input from Congress. And while the president claims to be interested in congressional input, actions speak louder than words. To date, the Obama administration has taken no action to include Congress in its negotiation of trade agreements. Six years into the process, Obama is only now paying lip service to collaboration with his request for Fast Track Authority, instead of meaningfully including Congress.
Obama has not shared the content of the 30 chapters and over 1,000 pages that make up the TPP, and what little we do know does not instill confidence. Had Congress been an active participant in discussions, I would feel much more comfortable about what’s included in this agreement, knowing we had not abdicated our responsibility to protect our own economy, businesses and workers first.
Instead, what little we have seen would likely harm our country while benefiting foreign governments and companies. Included in the TPP is a mechanism called the Investor State Dispute Settlement, which is meant to resolve complaints by foreign companies doing business in the United States, but will instead only violate U.S. sovereignty. This foreign trade tribunal could overturn our laws without any chance for appeal, meaning other governments could simply challenge U.S. laws they don’t like instead of making meaningful reforms to their own market access, currency manipulation or labor protection laws.
On top of that, the TPP is structured as a docking agreement, meaning any country, whether we want it to or not, could join the agreement at any time. This structure is not advisable or necessary. We already have trade agreements with many countries, and any new ones ought to be negotiated with the specifics of our relationship and needs in mind.
With so much stacked against American businesses and workers, I’m deeply concerned about the TPP as it currently stands, and giving Obama the power to force it through Congress would simply be an irresponsible decision. Fast Track is a 41-year-old policy, and while an updated version could work one day, it won’t work under this president. Because I have no faith that Obama will produce the best trade agreement for America’s businesses or the American workforce, organized or otherwise, I cannot support giving him Fast Track Authority.
Congressman Tom MacArthur, of Toms River, is a Republican representing New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District.