President Obama has decided to introduce NAFTA-style deals with Panama, Colombia and Korea to Congress, bowing to pressure from corporations and Republicans.
Recognizing that the deals would cost jobs, the administration also agreed with House Republicans to cut (but partially renew) trade adjustment assistance (TAA) for workers displaced by trade.
Republicans, after getting what they want, are now threatening to block or muddle the push on the FTAs, because TAA was not cut enough, or out of concerns that pairing TAA with the FTAs backs up the notion that trade deals cost jobs. Well, yes.
The three deals will be considered under Fast Track trade promotion authority, which means that normal congressional procedures and debate are suspended. As we state in our book on the topic:
Core Aspects of Fast Track Trade-Authority Delegation
- Allowed the executive branch to select countries for, set the substance of, negotiate and then sign trade agreements – all before Congress had a vote on the matter.
- Required the executive branch to notify Congress 90 calendar days before signing and entering into an agreement.127
- Empowered the executive branch to write lengthy implementing legislation for each pact on its own, without committee mark ups. That is to say, the process circumvented normal congressional processes. These executive-authored bills altered wide swaths of U.S. law to conform domestic policy to each agreement's requirements, and formally adopted the agreement texts as U.S. law. As a concession to congressional decorum, the executive branch agreed to participate in "non" or "mock" hearings and markups of the legislation by the trade committees. However, this is a practice, not a requirement.
Today, we will attempting to live-blog the simultaneous mock markups in the Senate Finance and House Ways & Means Committees. I'll be focusing on the latter. [My comments will be in brackets; unless noted by quotes, all notes are paraphrased from actual statements.]
Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.): We obtained significant reductions in TAA. But the agreement was on substance, not process.
[See statement here. Camp has a key misrepresentation in his opening statement:
"The three trade agreements are a sure-fire way to create American jobs by growing U.S. exports of goods and services – and they do not require one dime of new government spending. The independent U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that the three pending trade agreements together would increase U.S. exports by at least $13 billion. These agreements will create and support jobs here in the United States – 250,000 jobs, using the President’s own measure."
This is a serious misrepresentation. In fact, consistent use of this methodology here would show a job loss from the trade deals, not a job gain.
And it's misleading to suggest that these deals don't cost money. In fact, as the Congressional Budget Office estimates have shown, the U.S. government will lose billions in tariff revenue from implementing the deals.
Korea FTA itself: $7,355 million over 2011-2021
Colombia FTA itself: $1,400 million over 2011-2021
Panama FTA itself: $6 million over 2011-2021]
Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-Mich.): Urging a "no" vote on mock markup of the 3 FTAs if his amendment to include TAA is not included. Is asking for a certification to be required that Colombia has met its action plan requirements before the agreement enters into force. Urging a no vote if this amendment to require certification fails.
[This Action Plan fails to accomplish the most important labor rights objective: requiring an end to unionist killings on the ground. It also falls far short of the extensive benchmarks laid out by Democratic labor rights leaders.]