Deal reached to fast track Obama trade agenda

A bi-partisan coalition of lawmakers on Capitol Hill have reached an agreement that would "fast track" President Obama's trade agenda by preventing Congress from amending trade deals.

Specifically, the legislation would allow the conclusion of negotiations for the agreement with 11 Latin American and Asian countries known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Basically, the law would prevent individual members from trying to amend a treaty that would benefit their own, narrow interests in their districts or states. Most nations have balked at the idea that once negotiated, Congress could add or undo provisions that had already been hashed out.

The Hill:

The new legislation was announced on Thursday afternoon by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the ranking member on the Finance Committee who has been negotiating closely with Hatch.

To win Wyden over, Republicans are agreeing to also approve a new Trade Adjustment Assistance program, a government effort designed to help workers who lose their jobs because of trade. The program has been paired in the past with votes on fast track.

"For me, the heart of this is to have a modern trade policy that is going to work for hard-working middle-class Americans," Wyden told reporters. "And it's going to provide a path for them to have more high-skill, high-wage jobs."

He said the bipartisan bill creates "what I expect to be unprecedented transparency in trade negotiations, and ensures future trade deals break new ground to promote human rights, improve labor conditions and safeguard the environment."

Democrats are badly divided on trade, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and other liberals loudly protesting the president's plans. A report by The Hill earlier this week suggested as few as 15 Democrats in the House were prepared to vote for fast track, and unions and other liberal groups have mounted an early offensive against the fast-track bill. 
 
President Obama praised the long-awaited legislation that “would help us write those rules in a way that avoids the mistakes from our past, seizes opportunities for our future, and stays true to our values.”
 
“It would level the playing field, give our workers a fair shot, and for the first time, include strong fully enforceable protections for workers’ rights, the environment and a free and open internet,” the president said in a statement. 

While we've heard all this before, there may be cause to believe that the TPP will benefit American workers more than it hurts them. The industries that are expected to do well over the next decade as a result of the TPP are "machinery, especially electrical, autos, plastics and agriculture industries."

But incomes are not expected to rise very much, which is one of the downsides to any international trade agreement. US goods have to be competitive with countries that largely don't pay their workers as much as we do. 

But it is expected that there will be a net gain in jobs and bonanza for the American consumer. Is that the way it will play out? Or will TPP be just another bad deal that costs Americans jobs and moves industries overseas?

 

A bi-partisan coalition of lawmakers on Capitol Hill have reached an agreement that would "fast track" President Obama's trade agenda by preventing Congress from amending trade deals.

Specifically, the legislation would allow the conclusion of negotiations for the agreement with 11 Latin American and Asian countries known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Basically, the law would prevent individual members from trying to amend a treaty that would benefit their own, narrow interests in their districts or states. Most nations have balked at the idea that once negotiated, Congress could add or undo provisions that had already been hashed out.

The Hill:

The new legislation was announced on Thursday afternoon by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the ranking member on the Finance Committee who has been negotiating closely with Hatch.

To win Wyden over, Republicans are agreeing to also approve a new Trade Adjustment Assistance program, a government effort designed to help workers who lose their jobs because of trade. The program has been paired in the past with votes on fast track.

"For me, the heart of this is to have a modern trade policy that is going to work for hard-working middle-class Americans," Wyden told reporters. "And it's going to provide a path for them to have more high-skill, high-wage jobs."

He said the bipartisan bill creates "what I expect to be unprecedented transparency in trade negotiations, and ensures future trade deals break new ground to promote human rights, improve labor conditions and safeguard the environment."

Democrats are badly divided on trade, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and other liberals loudly protesting the president's plans. A report by The Hill earlier this week suggested as few as 15 Democrats in the House were prepared to vote for fast track, and unions and other liberal groups have mounted an early offensive against the fast-track bill. 
 
President Obama praised the long-awaited legislation that “would help us write those rules in a way that avoids the mistakes from our past, seizes opportunities for our future, and stays true to our values.”
 
“It would level the playing field, give our workers a fair shot, and for the first time, include strong fully enforceable protections for workers’ rights, the environment and a free and open internet,” the president said in a statement. 

While we've heard all this before, there may be cause to believe that the TPP will benefit American workers more than it hurts them. The industries that are expected to do well over the next decade as a result of the TPP are "machinery, especially electrical, autos, plastics and agriculture industries."

But incomes are not expected to rise very much, which is one of the downsides to any international trade agreement. US goods have to be competitive with countries that largely don't pay their workers as much as we do. 

But it is expected that there will be a net gain in jobs and bonanza for the American consumer. Is that the way it will play out? Or will TPP be just another bad deal that costs Americans jobs and moves industries overseas?