Members of Congress, Labor Organizations, Environmental Groups, and Industry Leaders Unite to Oppose Congressional Fast-tracking of Massive Trade Deals
Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3) and Congresswoman Robin Kelly (IL-2) were joined this morning at a Chicago manufacturing plant by a spokesperson from the office of Congressman Danny Davis (IL-7) and representatives from organized labor, environmental groups, and industry to denounce legislation that would grant the president Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) to “fast-track” trade deals through Congress. The TPA bill has passed committees in the House and Senate and could be voted on at any time in both chambers. The bill would let the president sign and enter into a trade deal before Congress approves its contents and then force Congress to vote within 90 days on a done deal with all amendments prohibited.
“Whenever the U.S. negotiates a new foreign trade agreement the American people are promised greater job creation and increased exports, but time after time the result has been fewer jobs, lower wages, and a bigger trade deficit,” said Rep. Lipinski. “Since NAFTA was signed, Illinois alone has lost close to 300,000 manufacturing jobs. These were quality jobs with high wages and good benefits that supported hard-working middle class families.
“Unfortunately, history keeps repeating itself. The Administration promised that the Korea Free Trade Agreement would produce 70,000 new jobs and soaring exports, but since it was implemented in 2012 we’ve seen a loss of 60,000 American jobs and a 25% increase in the manufactured goods trade deficit,” continued Lipinski. “Despite the failure of the Korea agreement, the Administration is using it as a template for a much larger agreement that is currently being negotiated, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP covers 11 U.S. trading partners that account for 40% of our trade. The TPP is the first trade deal that would get fast-tracked. We have to stop this endless cycle of failure. It is the responsibility of Congress to ensure that trade agreements create American jobs, raise wages, and safeguard the consumer and environmental protections on which Americans rely.”
“I'm not opposed to trade, and I want to work with the President,” said Rep. Kelly. “But there's no fast track to a more prosperous future for our nation. We must engage in a deeper, broader and more inclusive dialogue about trade. Our collective destiny cannot be negotiated behind our backs. We must be assured that trade deals are not being negotiated in a way that ships jobs overseas and allows trade cheats to undercut U.S. manufacturers through currency manipulation. Fast Track is simply not appropriate for 21st Century agreements. The U.S. cannot afford another trade agreement that repeats the mistakes of the past.”
“The United States needs economic growth,” said Bill Hickey, president of Lapham-Hickey Steel in Bedford Park. “We have to have trade agreements that stop the erosion of our manufacturing base. As we enter into bad trade agreements we hurt the ability to create jobs and slow economic growth. This has to stop!”
“Trade law enforcement, currency manipulation, adequate trade adjustment assistance and worker rights all have suffered when Congress has merely rubber stamped other free trade deals with a yes or no vote,” said United Steelworkers President Leo W. Gerard. “American workers and manufacturers have had to pay a steep price.”
“The U.S. has some of the strongest environmental and public health safeguards in the world,” said Natural Resources Defense Council Midwest Advocacy Director Tiffany Ingram. “We can’t afford to put them at risk through a trade agreement. What we have seen so far gives us grave concern that our chemical, food, and climate protections could be put at risk in the pending trade agreements. We can’t afford to give a blank check to fast track these trade agreements into law.”
Also joining in opposition this morning were members of the Chicago Federation of Labor, the Laborers' District Council of the Chicago Region, the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), and the Illinois Fair Trade Commission.
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