House Democrats want a role now
The debate on trade in Congress is not about whether Democrats support trade, or whether we take the side of businesses or labor; it's about getting trade right. Indeed, because of our efforts, the most recent trade agreements to pass Congress were updated to include enforceable worker rights, environmental standards, and provisions to safeguard access to medicines to combat AIDS and other diseases around the globe.
We built this foundation for effective trade agreements, and we don't want to see it eroded. The current negotiation is to establish the largest trade agreement in decades — the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This economic relationship will impact our economy, jobs and wage growth for decades. We better get it right.
TPP has the potential to raise standards and open new markets for U.S. businesses, workers and farmers — or to lock in weak standards, uncompetitive practices, and a system that does not spread the benefits of trade, affecting the paychecks of American families.
The negotiations are at a critical juncture. Many issues have not been decided, and in some areas, our negotiators need to change their negotiating strategy. This is the wrong time to give up congressional leverage by voting for trade promotion authority. Especially when the bill before Congress extends this authority for a full six years.
Instead of being left with a simple yes or no vote after the agreement is signed, with no ability to amend the agreement, House Democrats want to have a role now.
Among many outstanding issues, the TPP negotiations don't address currency manipulation. House Democrats want to change that. Workers in Mexico and Vietnam don't have basic rights, and human trafficking is rampant in Malaysia. House Democrats want to change that. Domestic health and safety regulations could be challenged by foreign investors through a trade arbitration panel, not our court system. House Democrats want to change that.
Unfortunately, the bill that passed the Senate greases the skids for the TPP as it stands right now; it doesn't improve it. Don't fast-track TPP until it is on the right track.
Rep. Sandy Levin of Michigan is the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee.