'Fast Track' a Detriment to Trade

By Dan Lipinski
Southwest News-Herald
One of the first bills introduced in Congress to start the new year was the Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014, HR 3830, legislation that grants the president trade promotion authority on international trade agreements currently being negotiated. 
The bill essentially would allow the president and his administration to negotiate trade agreements with foreign nations, then “fast track” legislation implementing these agreements through Congress in a short time period. Debate would be limited. No amendments would be allowed. Basically an “up” or “down” vote. 
Getting this legislation through Congress is considered key to approval of the Trans Pacific Partnership, a proposed trade agreement between the United States, Canada, and 10 countries in the Asia-Pacific region. The agreement would be huge, covering roughly 40 percent of our country’s imports and exports. 
I strongly believe the Congressional Trade Priorities Act, as well as the concept of fast tracking any sweeping legislation without input from the public’s elected representatives in Congress, is a terrible mistake. 
Too often in recent years Congress has failed the American people by abdicating its responsibilities and relinquishing too much power to the executive branch. This has been especially harmful when it comes to trade agreements. 
Over the last few decades we have seen American presidents – Democrats and Republicans alike – negotiate trade agreements that they promised would help American workers. But these promises of more and better jobs have gone unfulfilled. 
Once the negotiated trade pacts were implemented, trade deficits grew and the standard of living for middle-class Americans declined.
I realize that in our increasingly connected world, greater foreign trade is necessary to grow the American economy and create more jobs. To this end, international agreements that break down barriers to trade and open markets to fair competition can be good for business at the local level and the larger national economy.
But Congress has a responsibility to the American people to be fully informed about trade agreements the administration is negotiating, to take time to carefully study the agreements and to make necessary changes to the implementing legislation the administration sends to Congress. 
Only then can we be certain that the interests of American workers are being served — not just those of American businesses. 
As someone who grew up next to the Clearing Industrial District, I have seen too many examples of the harm that is inflicted on American workers and middle-class families due to the country already being at a competitive disadvantage internationally. 
Lower environmental standards in other countries, lax enforcement of the trade laws already on the books and a willingness by some of our trade partners to manipulate their currency and skirt trade laws in order to get ahead have created an unlevel playing field. The result is the offshoring of American jobs and fewer good-paying jobs here at home. 
In Congress, I have made strengthening manufacturing and creating jobs among my top priorities. 
My Manufacturing Competitiveness Act, HR 2447, would create a national manufacturing strategy to give American workers the tools they need to succeed in the global marketplace. U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) has introduced a companion bill in the Senate. 
I also am the sponsor of the Customs Training Enhancement Act, HR 1322, to help crack down on customs cheats so American businesses have a fairer shot against their foreign competitors. 
Without more transparency in, the legislation currently being hurt those efforts. 
I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to arrive at solutions that advance American business interests abroad without hurting hard-working workers and families here at home.
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