18 Apr Democrats Blast Trade Talks Ahead of Obama Asia Trip
Some lawmakers who include President Barack Obama’s most loyal congressional supporters are trying to preempt any momentum the White House hopes to gain during next week’s trip to Asia for a sweeping trans-Pacific trade deal.
The Democratic members of Congress said Wednesday they still have serious concerns about the Transpacific Partnership pact that remains under negotiation and that the fast-track authority that would be needed to ratify a deal in Congress is still in serious trouble.
“It’s a bit odd for the president to push for TPP in Japan when he’s not gotten fast-track negotiating authority from the Congress,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut said Wednesday during a press conference call organized by Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.
Joined by Reps. Louise M. Slaughter of New York and Keith Ellison of Minnesota, she said TPP negotiators are grappling with “many seemingly intractable problems including on intellectual property rights and market access issues among them.”
“Foremost among these is the impact, in my view devastating impact, TPP would have on jobs and the middle class,” said DeLauro. “We know how this plays out for American workers.”
Obama is set to being his Asia trip next Wednesday beginning in Japan, where U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman recently met with officials in TPP talks. Japan’s presence in TPP negotiations makes the deal much more economically significant but also more politically complicated because of the nation’s market access barriers, especially in automobiles and agriculture.
Obama will also travel to South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.
DeLauro took aim at a free trade deal with Korea Congress passed in 2012, saying it has cost tens of thousands of U.S. jobs, despite the Obama administration’s promises it would create more jobs.
The members also said despite Froman’s message that lawmakers have access to the TPP negotiating text, they aren’t able to bring their personal office aides or are unable to understand what the overall text would really do, once implemented. “We have been shut out,” Slaughter said.
She added she thinks the White House knows the debate over fast-track authority is essentially over.
“We cannot support trade trade promotion authority,” said Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Mass. “We cannot support it because our job is to look after the public interest, not the private gain of certain multinational corporations.”
The lawmakers also took aim at the Obama administration’s pitch that TPP would not bring economic gain but also would be important for geopolitical and national security reasons.
Clyde Prestowitz, president of the Economic Strategy Institute and a U.S. trade negotiator for Japan, Korea, China under President Ronald Reagan, said the key questions about TPP are whether it will be a plus for the U.S. economy and whether it will strengthen the U.S.’s security position in the Pacific region. “And I think the answer to both questions is no,” he said during the press call.