Well, as you’ve probably heard, the House considered the TPA “fast track” trade agreement bill this week. It was broken into a few pieces and it’s all very convoluted procedurally. To put it simply, I voted “no”.
[Reposted from The Villages-News | Congressman Rich Nugent | June 13, 2015]
I’ve been skeptical of how these trade agreements have been implemented in the past. When you look at what happened to our trade deficit following NAFTA, etc. the data just doesn’t look good. And while in fairness to supporters, it’s hard to quantify exactly how much of our overall activity – jobs, trade deficit, GDP growth, etc – is attributable to a trade agreement. And while it’s also impossible to prove what would’ve happened in the absence of those agreements, the bottom line is that like a lot of Americans, I was unconvinced before this whole thing got going. What I’ve heard since just made it worse.
As with most things, I always try to keep an open mind. I always try to remember that I represent people on both sides of every issue. I listen carefully, I consider carefully, and I try to balance the good with the bad. The best argument supporters of the trade agreement made, in my opinion, (which covers 14 nations in the Pacific and 40 percent of total commerce on the planet) is that it will improve intellectual property regulations and help open some major markets for U.S. manufacturers. But frankly, it’s hard to say if that’s true because outside of the rooms where it’s being negotiated, nobody really knows what’s in it. So it comes down to how much you trust the guy negotiating the deal. And frankly, having watched the other deals that this administration has struck on other issues (Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban leaders, Iran getting all of its sanctions lifted in exchange for a “fingers crossed” promise not to build nukes, status of forces agreement in Iraq, etc etc), I just don’t trust this president to negotiate a good deal or at the very least something that’s on-balance in America’s interests. I trust him to do what he’s done repeatedly and give away the farm because he thinks the accomplishment of a deal at any price will look good on his resume.
In truth, since nobody knows the actual terms of the deal, the most compelling argument you can probably make for the possibility of a deal is that America needs to continue showing leadership in the Pacific. Every place we step back, you can guarantee that China will step forward. And since the Bush Administration, we had managed to keep China excluded from this 14 nation agreement and I think that’s obviously a positive. But while leadership in the Pacific and countering China is something that I feel is of pretty fundamental importance to this country’s security, I also think we make America less secure when we make our own economy less secure. Frankly, I think there is a better than 50/50 shot that this deal, negotiated by this president, is going to end up leaving American workers with the short end of the stick. That for me is a deal-breaker all by itself. I will never sign on for something that isn’t going to put American workers first. Strengthening jobs at home is the most important thing in a deal like this and if you’re failing to convince people on that front, then the whole thing just doesn’t make any sense and it’s time to rethink it. At the very least, it’s not the time to “fast track” it.