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Rep. Lipinski Opposes Giving Up Congressional Authority and Allowing President to "Fast-Track" International Trade Agreements

Statement from Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3):

“In his State of the Union Address, President Obama requested that Congress grant him Trade Promotion Authority - also known as fast-track authority - so that Congress would only be allowed an up-or-down vote on any trade agreement with no amendments.  Unfortunately, Republicans seem ready, if not eager, to give the President this authority.  But Congress has already ceded too much power to the executive and judicial branches, and Americans deserve more transparency and an opportunity for input, not less.  It would be especially problematic for the American people - especially the middle class - if Congress gave up its authority when it comes to trade agreements, considering how harmful many of these deals have been to American workers over the past 20 years. 

“Since NAFTA was signed, Illinois alone has lost 293,000 manufacturing jobs.  These were quality jobs with high wages and good benefits that supported middle class families.  Since that time, we’ve seen Democratic and Republican presidents continue to negotiate trade agreements with policies that have led to a soaring trade deficit, stagnant wages, and continued outsourcing.

“President Obama lobbied Congress to pass the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement a few years ago.  We were promised 70,000 new jobs and soaring exports, but the cold reality is a loss of 60,000 in jobs in the past two years and a 25% increase in the manufactured goods trade deficit with Korea.  Right now, the President is negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership with 11 major Asian countries that comprise 40% of the United States’ goods trade.  The United States already has a more than $40 billion manufacturing trade deficit with these countries and past experience with trade deals indicate this could get much worse, costing more American jobs.  Making matters worse, U.S. manufacturers, such as automakers and the steel industry, have serious concerns about currency manipulation by Japan and others, which directly undercuts American jobs and export opportunities, and there’s no assurance that the President’s trade negotiators will fight to prevent this type of economic deceit in the trade pact.

“I’ve always said that American manufacturers are the best and most innovative globally, but they can’t compete if we keep ramming through free trade agreements with countries that aren’t being held to a high standard and a level playing field.  The passage of my bipartisan manufacturing strategy legislation last Congress was an important step forward for reinvigorating this sector, but even the passage of legislation like that doesn’t change the reality that America’s workers and businesses cannot prosper if our trade policies force them to compete with one hand tied behind their backs.

“That’s why Congress needs to consider any trade agreement through regular order procedures that include real debate and the ability to offer amendments, not just one up or down vote on an agreement that was negotiated without transparency.  Otherwise, we’re just passing an agreement that repeats the mistakes of the past, putting Americans out of work, threatening our environment, weakening food standards, and lowering workers’ rights globally.”

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