Letter to Rep. Sander Levin from Rep. Scott Peters

July 23, 2013

The following is a letter from Rep. Scott Peters to Rep. Sander Levin expressing concern about the TPP and Fast Track Authority.  The letter can be found here.

The Honorable Sander M. Levin
Ranking Member Ways and Means Committee Democrats
I 06 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Ranking Member Levin:

I look forward to working with you to establish United States trade policies that promote the creation of American jobs, support our national economic interests, and safeguard Congress’ authority to determine what domestic policies best promote the public interest.

As the economy continues to recover from the greatest fmancial 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 off shored, American wages are lost, American-made products decline, and our international interests are compromised.

Job off shoring was a major issue in the 2012 election, uniting Democrat, Republican, and Independent constituents. Polling shows that Americans oppose policies and trade agreements that facilitate off shoring, 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 firm seeing to avoid playing by the same rules as U.S. firms.

Therefore, I write with 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 I, Section 8) to the president through “Fast Track” or any other open-ended delegation of “trade promotion” authority.

In correspondence related to previous trade agreements, House Democrats joined together to demand access to the draft TPP FT A texts and to raise concerns about how the pact could internationally preempt Congress’ domestic policymaking prerogatives. In a letter to the administration, they said:

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 talks continue in secrecy. The administration has yet to release draft texts after more than three years of negotiations and has not reached out to members of Congress – at least new members – to provide detailed briefings on issues and parameters.  Thus, I am concerned about any proposed action that would improperly transfer Congress’ exclusive Constitutional trade authority to the president.

Indeed. given the vast scope oftoday’s trade agreements, I do not believe that a broad delegation of Congress’ 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 might 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.

Finally, many observers believe that the United States is not enforcing its rights with respect to nontariff barriers to trade even under relatively new agreements. Specifically, I understand that United States shipments of automobiles into Korea have been subject to unreasonable delays intended to deter imports, and that the United States has done nothing in response.

I am deeply committed to creating jobs and encouraging investment in our communities and across the country. To do so effectively, I believe it is critical that Congress maintains it authority to ensure American trade agreements are a good deal for the American people.


Scott Peters
Member of Congress

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