Levin at Politico Breakfast: Hatch-Wyden-Ryan TPA Puts Congress in the Back Seat

Apr 29, 2015 Issues: Trade

WASHINGTON – Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI) spoke this morning at Politico’s Morning Money breakfast on global trade, “fast-track” legislation, and the importance of getting the substance of the Trans-Pacific Partnership right. Watch the full video below: 

Here are some highlights:

On Hatch-Wyden-Ryan TPA bill:

The negotiating objectives in TPA now are very vague. Take currency – essentially it’s mush, it doesn’t say anything. And that’s true of so many other provisions. Take worker rights – it simply repeats May 10th, which I authored with Charlie Rangel – it doesn’t address the key issues we have with Vietnam and Mexico. The same for agriculture – the negotiating objective is to reduce or eliminate tariffs. That doesn’t really say anything. Japan’s already agreed it will reduce tariffs – the question is how much will they eliminate? And how much will they reduce? And those are unsettled. In some cases we have objections to the way it’s going. When it comes to currency and a handful of other things, it’s just so vague. … I say to everybody – name me a single negotiating objective in this TPA that is meaningful. A single one.

Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz said that we ‘can’t just take the administration’s word that it will drive a hard bargain.’ Therefore, they have to be held accountable in TPA. But their TPA doesn’t set out instructions for a clear path. It isn’t keeping the Administration’s feet to the fire.

On argument that we need TPA for other countries to put best offer on table:

Senator Hatch said that you need TPA to get the other countries to come forth. The problem is, if we pass TPA the way it’s now framed, I think it’s going to reduce the incentives of other countries to come forth. For example, that’s going to be true with worker rights with Mexico and Vietnam. I think it’s going to be true with SOEs and Signapore and Vietnam. Those SOEs compete with our small businesses. And we need to make sure that other countries don’t finance their SOEs so there’s an unlevel playing field.

On wanting to support TPP:

I’ve been working for years to shape trade. To make sure that it’s on the right path. I favor TPP. But it has to be the right TPP. I favor having instructions that lay down very clearly what needs to be done. Not lose our leverage to help make that happen. Because at the end – yes or no – that gives us no leverage. … And that was the basis of our substitute, and they didn’t even allow us a vote on it. … We want to participate in putting together the right TPP. And my goal has always been to get, if not the majority of Democrats, a very substantial number to have a bipartisan basis for a vote on trade. We’re not there. We need to get there.

On the need for currency language:

There needs to be an understanding of what currency is all about. When Japan manipulated their currency, and then China, we lost one to five million jobs. These were middle class jobs. And all of this discussion about trade misses the point. We need our exports expanded, but we also need to look at the impact of trade on jobs in this country. We can’t duck this issue.

On transparency:

We worked hard to get the Administration to open up the process even to members of Congress. Some months ago, members of Congress weren’t even able to see the full text and the offers of the other countries. Now the Administration has changed that. We talked a few weeks ago with the Administration – we said, look, we’re going to be gone for a couple of weeks, can our staff that has security clearance see the drafts? And they said ‘no.’ So we need to open up this process. No one is saying that at every single point, every single thing has to be made public. But Congress needs to be a full partner. And what this TPA does is essentially put Congress in the back seat.

On opening up Japan’s historically closed market:

Clearly trade has been one of the reasons for wage stagnation in this country. It’s not the only reason. Globalization is here to stay, that’s one of the reasons. Innovation is another reason. Going back to currency manipulation – most of the lost jobs have been middle class jobs. Take the auto industry – Japan’s had a one-way street. We’ve been insisting that the Administration tell us how they’re going to change that. And right now, the language in TPA on autos in Japan is vague. We’ve been saying to the Administration – tell us precisely how you’re going to work it out with Japan, so if our tariffs go down, how are we going to be sure that our products can be sold in Japan? So for middle and small businesses, like the automotive and industrial sector, we have to get this agreement right. We have to be sure that they’re going to really open up their markets.

On Democrats’ involvement in crafting the TPA bill:

The reality is, early on, we presented the same ideas that are in the substitute. We spelled out where we thought this process and the substance should go. And the response we got from the Republicans was that there was no interest in addressing these issues. There just wasn’t an ability to get them to focus on what this is really all about for the people of this country, for the businesses of this country, and for workers in this country.