Levin: TPA Surrenders Congressional Leverage

June 18, 2015


WASHINGTON - Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI) today delivered the following remarks on the House floor in opposition to TPA, the “fast-track” trade bill:

[Reposted from the Ways and Means site  |  Sander Levin  |  June 18, 2015]

It is said that we should write the rules, not China.

But make no mistake – the "we" is not Congress, leaving us with only a yes or no vote at the very end.

To vote for TPA now is to surrender Congressional leverage to get it right in shaping TPP, the most significant trade negotiation in decades. Congress will have settled for a bill with so-called Congressional negotiating objectives so vague they are essentially meaningless.

That won't matter to those who basically approach trade with a 19th century dogma that trade between any two nations will naturally be beneficial, simply matching the comparative economic advantages of each.

But that has not worked out when, in this era, one nation manipulates its currency as it trades with the other. When nations suppress worker rights to keep their wages low, or degrade their environment to help them compete. Or when nations heavily subsidize their markets, or they keep their markets closed while a competitor keeps them very open in vital areas, whether industrial or agricultural.

So let us write the rules. But Congress must make sure they are right. 

We must make sure that the beneficiaries are the many in our nation, not just the few. 

As often stated in this debate, trade does indeed create winners and losers. As one who has worked hard to help put together expanded trade agreements, I know that in a globalizing world economy, failure to write the rules effectively is one of the reasons there have been too many losers – millions of lost jobs with middle class wages stagnant for decades while the relative few have done so well.

Congress should not give what would be essentially a blank check to USTR on key outstanding issues in the TPP negotiations. 

With this TPA you are saying ‘fine’ to no meaningful currency provision. 

You are saying ‘fine’ to giving private investors in growing numbers the ability to choose an unregulated arbitration panel, instead of a well-established judicial system, in order to overturn local or national health or environmental regulations. 

With this TPA, you cannot be confident Vietnam and Mexico will adhere to meaningful labor standards. 

With this TPA, you can’t be confident that Japan will open its market at long last to our cars or agricultural products. 

With this TPA you can’t be confident that there will be access to life-saving medicines.

Despite a bombardment of rhetoric, instead of the approach that we laid out in a Substitute that we have not even been allowed to consider in Committee or in the House, the reality is that this TPA will not put Congress in the driver’s but the back seat – for TPP, and for six years in important negotiations with Europe in TTIP, and who knows what else. 

Congress has a responsibility to get trade negotiations on the right track, not the fast-track.

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