Trade

Congresswoman Kaptur has been fighting for a “fair trade” policy since she came to Congress.

In the early 1990s, Congresswoman Kaptur joined House Majority Whip David Bonior and freshman Congressman Sherrod Brown in leading the House effort against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

America today sees the results of this failed policy: shuttered factories, depleted tax bases, and families out of work. NAFTA promised millions of good jobs for Americans, but we got the giant sucking sound that H. Ross Perot predicted.

NAFTA and similar agreements contributed to the devastation of our great manufacturing sector, which has lost a third of its workers since 1994 due in part to unfair trade. Multinational corporations rushed to low-wage countries to take advantage of cheap labor. Meanwhile, state-managed trade policy in nations such as Japan, Germany, and South Korea continued to keep out American-made products.

Working together, our businesses and labor organizations built Northern Ohio into an industrial powerhouse, always standing up for America, whether in war or peace. America's working men and working women and their families deserve a government that takes their side, not the side of big money. They deserve fair trade agreements that produce a level economic playing field, not a race to the bottom.

Lame Duck Hunt and the Fast Track Flush, Installment #1

by Lori Wallach
Director, Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch

Yet more secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations are underway today in Washington. Thanks to some hearty protestors braving the heat and humidity to hold a location pointer out in front of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the word got out.


For TPP negotiations launched in 2008 on a deal that was supposed to be done in 2011, 2012, and 2013 respectively, the sell-by date has long passed on this sort of closed-door diplomatic legislating.

But here is the kicker: the plan is only to release the text of the TPP after the agreement is completed! That's right: those who will live with result would not be able to see the 1000-page agreement until after it is too late to do anything to change its terms. And those terms would require all signatory nations to conform wide swaths of their domestic non-trade laws on financial regulation, food safety, Internet freedom, climate and energy policy, medicine pricing, government procurement, and more. Failure to do so would result in indefinite multi-million dollar trade sanctions or orders to compensate foreign firms with our tax dollars for alleged violation of these terms.

Since the "last" official round of negotiations, which happened last August in Brunei, the negotiating process has only gotten more secretive. There is no longer any official notice to Congress, the public or the press. Nor any opportunity for stakeholder input or press inquiry or briefings. It has been a total lock down as five more full TPP negotiating rounds have been held - as well at least two dozen "intersessionals" and endless U.S.-Japan bilateral negotiations.

Three weeks ago, President Barack Obama surprised everyone by announcing a new deadline for the TPP. During a visit by New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, Obama announced that the TPP heads of state plan to announce a deal on the sidelines of the Nov 10-11 APEC summit in China.

After missing three past public TPP deadlines, we were told earlier this year by several TPP countries' chief negotiators that no more deadlines would be announced unless and until they basically knew that they could deliver because repeatedly missing deadlines was starting to hurt the TPP's prospects.

And, there has been a very serious push to complete the deal -- with 10 days of locked-down marathon negotiations in Ottawa that ended mid-July to be followed by another marathon session in the start of September in Vietnam. Yet, it seems that Obama's announcement was not coordinated with the other TPP countries.

Rather, the announcement seems aimed at creating the optics that Congress must act on Fast Track trade authority for the TPP in the lame duck session of Congress that is to begin in the second week of November.

Fast Track is an arcane Nixon-era process that Congress has only allowed to go into effect for five of the last 20 years. It would allow the president to sign the TPP before Congress votes to approve it, and then guarantee a vote within 90 days in both chambers of Congress with no amendments allowed and limited debate.

A bill to establish this legislative luge run landed with a big dull thud at the start of this year: only nine House Democrats announced support and more than 100 House GOP indicated that they were not inclined to support what they view as the shredding of a major constitutional check and balance. (Congress has exclusive authority over trade in the Constitution - Article I-8.)

So, now we start the Lame Duck Hunt and stand by for more TPP and Fast Track news from the lame duck blind here in Washington D.C.

STEMMING JOBS LOSSES AND BALANCING OUR TRADE DEFICIT

We cannot sit by idly while American jobs are being shipped overseas, our manufacturing base is being eroded, our wages decline, and our economy is threatened by unfair trade agreements and ballooning trade deficits. Congress needs to take dramatic action to stop the downward economic spiral.

Two pieces of legislation by Congresswoman Kaptur address this issue directly:
The NAFTA Accountability Act (H.R. 191) would withdraw the U.S. from NAFTA unless the President renegotiates its terms to correct serious flaws. It would require the Administration to certify to Congress that since enactment NAFTA has resulted in:

  • more jobs and higher living standards;

  • increased domestic manufacturing;

  • maintenance of health and environmental standards;

  • no increase in pollution near the border;

  • no increase in the importation of illegal drugs, and;

  • observance by Mexico of political and human rights.

Congresswoman Kaptur also introduced the Balancing Trade Act (H.R. 192). This straightforward legislation requires the President to take the necessary steps to eliminate—or at least substantially reduce—any bilateral trade deficit that has totaled at least $10 billion annually for more than three consecutive years.

EXPANDING TRADE ADJUSTMENT ASSISTANCE

We must support workers who have lost their jobs due to unfair competition. Congresswoman Kaptur has been a consistent champion of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), which provides job training and other assistance to workers who have been laid off due to trade. Each year Congresswoman Kaptur strongly advocates for full funding of all of the TAA programs, including TAA for Workers, TAA for Firms, and the new TAA for Communities program, which will allow areas to receive federal funding to develop a strategy to diversify and strengthen their economy.

NAFTA at TEN: Journey to Mexico
Report of the U.S. Congressional Delegation November 14-18, 2003