Soapbox

Rep. Bera backs giving Obama authority to negotiate trade deal

Since taking office, I’ve had frequent conversations with many people whose views differ about global trade and a potential Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement being negotiated by the United States and several Pacific Rim nations. It is my job to listen, and there are strong advocates and valid arguments on both sides of this important and difficult issue.

Those who oppose the trade agreement are concerned about congressional oversight of trade deals and worry about protecting American workers. Those who favor it stress the deal’s potential for growing our economy by opening more markets to sell American products and creating American middle-class jobs.

Soon Congress will consider a Trade Promotion Authority bill. This is not the actual Trans-Pacific Partnership, but a procedural tool Congress uses to mandate requirements for negotiating a deal that also requires congressional approval on a final agreement.

After a long period of listening and deliberating, my assessment of this bill hinges on a few key points:

▪  What is in the best long-term interest for Sacramento County and America?

▪  What will create more middle-class jobs and provide a stronger future for American workers?

▪  What will allow the United States to maintain its position as the world’s dominant economy in the 21st century?

With those in mind, I have come to the conclusion that Congress should pass the Trade Promotion Authority to give the president instructions for negotiating a deal with the countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Here’s why.

We live in a global economy that’s becoming even more global every day. In my district, more than 83,000 jobs are supported by trade. And in all of Sacramento County, we exported $3.8 billion in goods and services just last year. With more than 95 percent of the world’s population outside the United States, economic growth and jobs for the region and America will increasingly depend on expanding U.S. trade and investment opportunities in the global marketplace.

But right now, many of the countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership essentially close their borders to American goods or impose tariffs that make it far too expensive for American companies to compete. For example, American rice exported to Japan can be subject to tariffs that top 778 percent. A good Trans-Pacific Partnership would level the playing field and make it easier to sell made-in-America goods and services in some of the fastest-growing markets in the world, support homegrown jobs and economic growth, and protect workers and the environment.

Opponents are right that some prior trade deals have had a negative impact. That’s why Congress has taken lessons learned from bad deals of the past to require major improvements to the Trade Promotion Authority. While we stand to support many more well-paying, middle-class jobs from a new trade deal (research shows export-related jobs pay workers 18 percent higher), we do run the risk of some workers being displaced. That’s why we’ve made sure robust Trade Adjustment Assistance is included in any deal to make resources available to retrain workers and help move them into higher-paying jobs.

The Trade Promotion Authority also requires the strongest deal yet on labor and the environment. For the first time ever, it mandates any new agreement require all trading partners to adopt and maintain internationally recognized, high-quality labor and environmental standards. And unlike previous versions, this Trade Promotion Authority adds teeth to the standards, making them fully enforceable through trade sanctions for violators. That would mean the largest expansion of enforceable labor rights ever, more than quadrupling the number of people protected by enforceable labor provisions, and a huge opportunity to protect our Earth.

High standards like this are critical because if the U.S. fails to set the rules, China will. China is currently negotiating their own regional trade deal that excludes the United States and aggressively moves to impose their rules on a region that is vital to our economy and our national security. By deepening our economic involvement in the Pacific, the United States also strengthens our security relationships in a region that is becoming increasingly crucial to our global security.

The Trade Promotion Authority also requires significant congressional oversight and unprecedented levels of public transparency. In fact, it requires all members of Congress to be regularly consulted and given access to negotiating text and even allows Congress to withdraw the Trade Promotion Authority if the deal does not meet the established standards. The Trade Promotion Authority also requires the Obama administration to regularly publish updated, comprehensive summaries of what is being sought in negotiations. And for the first time, any deal must be posted online for anyone to review 60 days before the president signs an agreement.

My support of the Trade Promotion Authority means I support giving the president instructions to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership because I believe a good trade deal is in Sacramento County’s and America’s best interests. A good deal must first and foremost support high-quality American jobs, grow our middle class and help us sell more of our goods in markets abroad. A good deal must also fix the problems we’ve seen in past agreements that have many people concerned about new ones, including protecting workers and the environment. In the Trade Promotion Authority, Congress has laid out specific parameters that I believe, done right, can lead us to that good deal.

Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, represents California’s 7th Congressional District.

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