A picture of Representative Paul Tonko
Paul T.
Democrat NY 20

About Rep. Paul
  • The Trans-Pacific Partnership

    by Representative Paul Tonko

    Posted on 2015-01-08

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    TONKO. Mr. Speaker, I thank Representative Pocan. It is great to join him in this hour of discussion about the Fast Track method that has been associated with trade negotiations and with fair trade/free trade concepts alike.

    I represent a district in upstate New York, the 20th Congressional District, which is primarily the confluence of the Hudson and Mohawk River Valleys, and it was there that we became the donor area to the Erie Canal that gave birth to westward movement for this Nation and sparked an industrial revolution. It was there that we saw the development of a necklace of communities, dubbed mill towns, that then rose as the epicenters of invention and innovation that saw manufacturing booming as we went forward as a nation.

    Many an immigrant called that their new home, that region their new home, and they tethered their American Dream to the prosperity that was continuing to grow in the region. I think back to the manufacturing sector and all that it meant to my ancestors, all it meant to me and the opportunities that came into my life, and it was that empowerment that came through the availability of work, the dignity of work, the opportunity to earn a paycheck that really made a difference.

    I think of those same towns today having really lost millions of jobs across America. We are reflective of all those towns that became those manufacturing centers, that enabled people again to engage in meaningful employment and to be able to have those dreams, those American Dreams fully, fully strengthened by the opportunity for work.

    When I see the reduction of standards, of environmental standards, where we are willing to have our children exploited by the ugly sins of the past with concerns for child labor laws that might erode, when we think about some of the inequities that are brought to bear with the denial of collective bargaining, all of these items have snuck into trade negotiations. There is an importance for Congress to be able to provide the oversight and the assessment of these various negotiations, where we can look at these trade deals and suggest amendments or have sound debate.

    We not only have a right as Members of Congress, I think the public that we represent has a need for Congress to review these documents and to suggest improvements. So I look forward to this hour of discussion where you and I and our several colleagues will join together in speaking to the wisdom, or lack thereof, of some of the processes that have followed this entire trade discussion.

    We are talking about a trade deficit now that has ballooned beyond belief, to record proportions, and where we are putting our economy and that American Dream at risk and where we are denying meaningful employment to those whom we represent here in Washington.

    I thank you for leading us in this hour of discussion, and I know that the information that we will exchange will be very critical and important to people who will be airing into this discussion and allowing them to trade those, exchange those ideas with their given elected representatives.

    With that, I thank you for leading us in this important discussion.

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