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Why doesn't Sen. Wyden care about trade deficits and offshoring?

August 23, 2016

by Michael Stumo

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) has never expressed concern about trade deficits, an unfortunate neglect in his position as Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Finance Committee. He has also never expressed concern that his "yes" vote on the Korea trade agreement in 2011 resulted in a doubling of our trade deficit with that country.

Wyden's office recently responded to a reporter's questions about whether he supports the TPP.  His spokesman said, this week, that Wyden has not made up his mind before citing important concerns such as promoting public health, labor rights and the environment. The economy-killing effects of trade deficits, economy-wide trade cheating, and the resulting job and industry offshoring did not make the list.

I count Wyden as "yes" vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Nike is his top contributor, and is headquartered in Oregon. Intel is number five on the Wyden donor list. Wyden pushed very hard against his Democratic colleagues (the majority of which opposed) to push Fast Track. Nike and Intel want the TPP.

Then there is the money quote:

"Key to Sen. Wyden's ultimate position is whether the current provisions in the agreement that protect public health, promote labor rights and preserve the environment remain fully intact, and he has confidence that those provisions will be vigorously enforced," [Wyden spokesman] Chu said.

Look at the phrasing. In the guise of expressing concern about public health, labor and the environment, Chu said that those standards exist in the TPP and that his boss is confident (against all past evidence) that they will be vigorously enforced. The only reservation is whether those provisions "remain fully intact."

Since there is zero pressure or potential to take out whatever meager provisions exist on those topics, this means Wyden will vote yes.  Labor, environmental and social justice groups oppose the agreement because those provisions are insufficient, but Wyden knows better apparently.

A strangely worded endorsement that appears to not-yet-endorse.

But the fact remains that Wyden is generally ok with net job losses and trade deficits that the TPP will cause.

 

The whole Politico Pro (subscription only, from today) piece is below.

WYDEN RESERVING JUDGMENT ON TPP: The top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee is waiting for additional developments before taking a position on the TPP, a spokesman for Sen. Ron Wyden told Morning Trade.

"When [Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell] signals that he intends for it to be considered in the Senate, and after there is agreement on the final text of the legislation that would approve and implement the TPP, Sen. Wyden will take a position on the agreement," his spokesman, Keith Chu, said in an email.

Wyden played a key role last year in passage of trade promotion authority, which allowed the Obama administration to complete negotiations on the TPP by guaranteeing Congress would consider the pact on a straight up-or-down vote without any amendments, thus assuring other nations it would survive the approval process in one piece.

But only a few of the 13 Senate Democrats and 28 House Democrats who voted last year for trade promotion authority have publicly embraced the TPP agreement in the face of fierce criticism from the progressive wing of their party. "Key to Sen. Wyden's ultimate position is whether the current provisions in the agreement that protect public health, promote labor rights and preserve the environment remain fully intact, and he has confidence that those provisions will be vigorously enforced," Chu said.

For his part, McConnell said in July that chances were "pretty slim" that Congress would vote on the deal this year because of the opposition of the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees. However, the White House continues to act as though it will submit the implementing legislation for a vote under fast-track procedures.


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