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Paul T.
Democrat NY 20

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  • Free Trade Agreements

    by Representative Paul Tonko

    Posted on 2015-01-27

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    TONKO. Mr. Speaker, we thank you for the opportunity to gather as [[Page H633]] Democrats in this 30-minute Special Order opportunity to discuss our Nation's recent free trade agreements. And I will note that nomenclature: free trade. There are concerns about fair trade being the outcome, and we will be talking about that here in this format.

    This is more important now than ever before as our United States Trade Representative Ambassador Michael Froman testified before the House and Senate today. The Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations are being held as we speak this week in New York City. And some Members of Congress have suggested a trade promotion authority bill, better referenced as a ``fast track,'' that may be introduced in the near future, a fast track that would deny the checks and balances of Congress, one that would not allow us to actively overview the impact of these negotiated settlements, these contracts, and would require a simple thumbs up-thumbs down vote without, again, that interactive quality that serves that responsibility to the Members of Congress.

    But before we give away Congress' ability to conduct proper oversight and review these trade agreements that are currently being negotiated, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we need to discuss how free trade agreements from the past two decades have not delivered on their promises.

    These trade deals will have far-reaching impacts on American life. They could include impacts on food safety or perhaps affordable medicine or perhaps regulations with the banking industry, the financial industry.

    Let's not be reckless and allow these deals to move forward without thorough and proper consideration by Congress. Frankly, these deals have not lived up to the hype. President Obama indicated as much in his recent State of the Union message: ``I'm the first one to admit that past trade deals haven't always lived up to the hype.'' So whether it was NAFTA--the North America Free Trade Agreement--or the Korean Free Trade Agreement, supporters of our past FTAs have promised these deals would create a good outcome, create United States jobs, create a lesser trade deficit, and improve global labor and global environmental standards.

    {time} 1845 Tragically, sadly, this has not been the outcome.

    TPP supporters have said this one will be different. The Trans- Pacific Partnership, which could cover a great majority of the international economy, has its supporters saying that this will be a 21st century agreement, far different from those that have preceded it.

    Leaked information from the TPP negotiators shows that it is being modeled by the negotiations, themselves, not by the negotiators, showing that it has been modeled on trade policies that have proven to offshore good-paying jobs in our economy and to force wages down for America's working families. That is why respected economists, including many who have previously supported free trade, such as Jeffrey Sachs, as well as Nobel Prize winners Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, have expressed skepticism about the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiation. They are coming to realize what many of our constituents have long known: these trade agreements do not respond favorably to the American middle class.

    Sachs' speech at a trade forum on Capitol Hill included comments that indicated: I don't think TPP and TTIP rise close to the standard of being 21st century trade and investment agreements, not even close. They are very much 20th century agreements which were already out of date by the time they were negotiated. This is a NAFTA treaty writ large or these are the same negotiations that we have had in many other cases.

    In the New York Times, Mr. Krugman indicated: I am, in general, a free trader, but I will be undismayed and even a bit relieved if the TPP just fades away. The first thing you need to know about trade deals in general is that they aren't what they used to be. The glory days of trade negotiations and the days of deals like the Kennedy Round of the 1960s, which sharply reduced tariffs around the world, are long behind us.

    Then Mr. Stiglitz, in the New York Times, is quoted as saying: Based on the leaks--and the history of arrangements in past trade pacts--it is easy to infer the shape of the whole TPP, and it doesn't look good. There is a real risk that it will benefit the wealthiest sliver of the American and global elite at the expense of everyone else.

    Tonight, I hope we can have a thoughtful discussion about jobs, about wages, about environmental standards that could be impacted, about child labor laws that could, perhaps, be thrust upon us that have been promised for every FTA in the past two decades. Sadly, our constituents are looking for that sort of progressive outcome that has not been realized, and, certainly, our workers have been impacted. I represent a district that is tremendously impacted by these trade negotiations.

    So, tonight, it is a pleasure to work with my colleagues in order to get out the message about the broken promises of our trade agreements.

    I see my good friend and colleague who has been a very passionate voice on speaking out about these issues. He is Tim Ryan, our Representative from Ohio's 13th District. Let me yield to Mr. Ryan so he can share some thoughts with us.

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