I am working to dramatically change U.S. trade policy. I believe that U.S. businesses and workers can compete in the global marketplace if the playing field is level, the rules of competition are fair, and unfair barriers to our products are knocked down.
Make it in America Agenda
The federal government must do everything it can to support the manufacturing base of our economy. Manufacturing is also at the heart of our economic competitiveness and national security though the creation of advanced technology. Manufacturing companies do about 70% of the private sector R&D in the United States.
Legislation I have authored is part of a Make it in America Agenda. You may learn more about the Make it in America Agenda here.
Pending Trade Negotiations
The United States is currently engaged in trade negotiations called the “Trans-Pacific Partnership” or “TPP.” These TPP negotiations include 12 parties (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam) which account for about 40 percent of world GDP and represent some of its fastest growing markets.
These negotiations include a vast array of economies, ranging from some of the world’s largest, most developed, and market-oriented economies to some of the smallest, least-developed, and command economies. They include Japan, a country with which we have never been able to establish a level competitive playing field in key areas like automotive and agriculture, and other countries where there exists grave concerns about working conditions, human rights and the rule of law.
The negotiations also cover an exceptionally far-reaching range of subject matters. In important respects they go beyond the scope of the never-completed Doha World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations – covering everything from tariffs to intellectual property rights, the Internet, labor and environmental protections, cross-border data flows, and state-owned enterprises.
These are very important negotiations that deserve the full attention and active involvement of Congress. They have the potential to result in significant economic opportunities for U.S. businesses, workers and farmers. Or they have the potential to lock in uncompetitive practices, weak standards and a system that does not spread the benefits of trade.
I recently presented a Report to the Council on Foreign Relations reviewing the areas that must be confronted and effectively resolved within the TPP negotiations. I believe there is much work to be done on these issues.
Trade Promotion Authority – or “Fast Track”
Trade promotion authority is the legislative vehicle through which Congress delegates the negotiating of trade agreements to the Executive Branch.
“Fast Track,” or Trade Promotion Authority, is traditionally designed to be in place from the start of negotiations – to ideally give Congress a role in picking negotiating partners, to set out negotiating objectives, to establish full transparency, to provide an active role for Congress throughout the negotiations, to judge if the objectives have been achieved, and then to set procedures for legislative consideration. No matter one’s view of the status of the TPP negotiations, whether in their “end game” or with much work remaining (as I believe), after four years, these negotiations clearly are not at the beginning.
Chairman Camp and other Republicans on Ways and Means wrote in July that they “will not support TPP if the agreement, even an agreement in principle, is completed before TPA is enacted.”
Yet many of the negotiating objectives in the Camp, Baucus, Hatch TPA provide no real guidance to the outstanding issues we now face in TPP. Take, for example, the issue of currency manipulation. The Baucus-Camp-Hatch TPA bill simply lays out options already available to the President to address currency manipulation – some of which, like “reporting, monitoring, and transparency,” have already been tried and have failed. These options fall far short of the enforceable disciplines sought by bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate.
Agricultural market access is another example of how TPA can’t effectively address current negotiations. The Baucus-Camp-Hatch TPA bill has as its objective “reducing or eliminating” tariffs that decrease market access opportunities for U.S. exports. Japan, in essence, has proposed new market access for U.S. exporters by reducing – but never eliminating – its tariffs on roughly 600 “sacred” product lines. That may conform to the negotiating objective in the Baucus-Camp-Hatch TPA bill, but many agricultural groups – and even Chairman Camp himself – have said they don’t believe it is satisfactory in these negotiations.
And, finally, the Baucus-Camp-Hatch TPA bill merely codifies existing practices regarding Congressional consultation mechanisms – and then calls on the Administration to decide how to enhance those mechanisms four months after TPA becomes law.
The Baucus-Camp-Hatch TPA bill may be a tool to speed consideration of a trade agreement, but it is not a tool to effectively shape the TPP currently being negotiated.
What is needed now is a clear, focused, and structured involvement of Congress on the issues now under negotiation and their disposition, including effective transparency available to interested groups and the public as to how the negotiations are proceeding. That cannot be accomplished through work on a TPA.
Congress should not abdicate its vital responsibilities over international trade either by failing to participate actively in the shaping of major ingredients of the TPP or by agreeing to a fast track up or down vote before it knows the major ingredients of the TPP, the most immediate subject of a TPA.
When it comes to trade, the rules of completion are important, and making sure other countries abide by their commitments is a top priority of mine. I have pressed both Republican and Democratic Administrations to pursue trade violations at the World Trade Organization and to utilize U.S. trade remedy laws to defend U.S. business and workers against the unfair trade practices of others.
Non-tariff barriers - When other countries put up unfair barriers in their home markets to U.S. exports we must demand change. For example, South Korea uses all sorts of regulatory measures to keep out U.S. autos. As a result, 75 percent of our trade deficit with them is in autos.
Import surges – When other countries dump their products in the U.S. market at unfair prices that injure domestic businesses, we must take action. I have worked to strengthen these U.S. trade remedy laws that allow us to seek relief and to get the Executive to implement them. For example, two years ago, China was dumping tires in the U.S. market and undercutting the domestic industry. The Obama Administration put in place a temporary import tariff on Chinese tires and as a result domestic tire producers are adding jobs in the U.S.
Intellectual property violations – When other countries counterfeit or steal the intellectual property of U.S. businesses we must stop them. We also must not allow other countries to require the transfer of technology when we are selling in their markets.
Enforcing Trade Agreements – When we enter a trade agreement with another country, we should have every expectation that they abide by the terms of that agreement. For example, Guatemala has not abided by the worker rights provisions in the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). I opposed CAFTA but once it became law I have been pressing the Administration to hold Guatemala accountable. They recently announced that they are pursuing legal action under the dispute settlement section of the trade agreement to force compliance. You may read more here.
Making China Play by the Rules
We must have a consistent and active policy toward China so that it follows the rule of law by strengthening enforcement against unfair trade practices and responding to currency manipulation.
For instance, clean energy – wind and solar equipment manufacturing, are often described as the “future” of U.S. manufacturing and the U.S. economy. To get a competitive advantage, China discriminates against U.S. clean energy manufacturers in a variety of ways and has adopted subsidies that are clearly prohibited under WTO rules.
I organized a letter from 181 Members of the House of Representatives to President Obama urging the President to address China’s unfair trade practices that benefit its green technology manufacturers to the detriment of their America competitors. The World Trade Organization recently ruled in our favor and against China’s actions. You may read more here.
I have also been the lead author of legislation to address currency manipulation by China and other countries. The Peterson Institute has estimated that currency manipulation alone may account for at least half of our trade deficits, and for half of excess unemployment in the United States. While the U.S. House passed currency legislation in 2010, it did not become law, and Republicans have not allowed a vote on this legislation again since they became the Majority. Currently, this bi-partisan legislation has 157 co-sponsors. You may read more here.
Majorities of the House and the Senate have also written letters to the Administration specifically on this issue and urged the Administration to include strong and enforceable currency obligations in TPP.
The Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act
As Ranking Member of the House Ways & Means Committee I have proposed a number of additional ideas to boost job creation as part of a Make It in America Agenda, including proposals to encourage investment in advanced energy manufacturing and to end currency manipulation.
Worker Rights in Trade Agreements
Workers must have basic rights if they are going to improve their financial standing and climb the economic ladder. This is not only vital to individuals and their families, it is critical to reducing poverty and the development of a country’s middle class. When we are integrating the U.S. economy with that of a developing country, it is important to our businesses, which need consumers to buy their goods and services. And, it’s important to U.S. workers, who should not compete with workers whose rights are suppressed, or who are killed in the exercise of those rights.
I fought to add enforceable international labor standards in the text of the U.S. – Peru Free Trade Agreement (FTA) for the first time, landmark environmental provisions and increased access to generic medicines. I also worked with Peru as they brought their labor law framework into compliance with international standards before Congress approved that FTA. That worker rights standard has been included in all of trade agreements since and is the current negotiating position of the Obama Administration.
During consideration of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement I made several trips to Colombia and worked on an Action Plan on Labor Rights which was negotiated between the U.S. and Colombian governments and included commitments and deadlines for Colombia to address issues of worker rights, violence and impunity. Unfortunately, that Action Plan was not made part of the legislation implementing the Colombia Free Trade Agreement and I opposed that Agreement. With its passage, I was appointed to the Colombia Congressional Monitoring Group and I continue to press for progress on issues of worker rights and violence against workers in Colombia.
I have also been very active on these issues in Bangladesh where there have been several fires and building collapses causing a terrible loss of lives. I supported the Administration’s decision to suspend trade preferences for Bangladesh until they improved their laws and conditions for workers. Here is a letter that I sent earlier this year.
(Updated September 29, 2014)