Bonamici Statement on Trade Promotion Authority

May 4, 2015

For the past several years, I have had many discussions about trade with the people of Northwest Oregon. I’ve spoken with farmers, environmentalists, semiconductor chip manufacturers, wine makers, steelworkers, sports and outdoor apparel companies, electrical workers, and others. Most of the conversations have focused on the potential Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement that the United States is negotiating with 11 other countries.

I have also heard from many people who are concerned about whether a trade agreement would threaten American jobs and workers. They worry that the Trans-Pacific Partnership might be like NAFTA, which, among other things, did not adequately provide for enforceable labor and environmental protections. They question why there isn’t more transparency, and wonder whether Congress has sufficient oversight over trade agreements. I appreciate and agree with their concerns.

Congress will soon be considering a bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill, which was drafted by Senators Wyden and Hatch and is supported by Rep. Blumenauer, among others. This is not the trade agreement itself, but rather a bill for Congress to establish requirements for the negotiation of a trade agreement, and the procedure for Congress to use when voting on whether to approve the agreement when it is final. I have decided to support the TPA bill for several reasons.

The district I represent has many trade-dependent jobs and industries. We export numerous products - from computer chips to potato chips. Last year in Oregon, close to 6,000 Oregon companies exported more than $20 billion in products. Expanding the market for U.S. goods will help businesses grow in this country. A trade agreement done right will not only make it easier to sell American-made goods, it will level the playing field by reducing tariffs that currently make it difficult to compete in many of the world’s markets. 

The TPA bill requires that trade agreements include strong labor standards that will, among other things, guard against child labor and human trafficking. It demands unprecedented environmental standards to protect our land, air, and water and conserve our precious natural resources. It also requires trade agreements to protect intellectual property to safeguard innovation and fight piracy overseas, but with provisions to ensure that those protections will not impede access to much-needed medicines for people in developing countries. Finally, the TPA requires that trade agreements not only contain high standards and protections, it also requires that the agreements include strong enforcement provisions to make clear that the standards and protections will be upheld and enforced. 

Importantly, the TPA bill includes strong transparency provisions that require the full text of any trade agreement to be made available to the public for a minimum of 60 days before the President signs that agreement. In addition, after the full text of the trade agreement becomes public, there will still be months before Congress votes on whether to approve it. And if the agreement does not live up to what was directed in the TPA, an off-ramp allows Congress to remove the trade promotion authority.

The TPA bill is only one step. After any trade agreement is final, but before Congress votes on it, I will be studying the provisions very carefully to make sure that the agreement will benefit working families. I know that our nation can compete and excel in a global marketplace where everyone plays by the same set of rules. When the playing field is level, America wins.

In the coming days and weeks, I will continue to emphasize to the President and to the Administration that, to earn my vote, any trade agreement must be a good deal for American workers. Its provisions must be enforceable. It must raise standards in other countries and create good jobs at home. The jobs that we gain by expanding exports tend to pay high wages, but there is a risk that some workers will be displaced. That’s why there must be a reauthorization and robust funding of Trade Adjustment Assistance so workers can be trained to work in those higher-paying jobs. If a trade agreement does not meet these benchmarks, it will not earn my support.

Additionally, we must not lose this opportunity to improve upon NAFTA. Mexico and Canada are among the countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which we already know will include stronger labor and environmental standards than were in NAFTA.

We live in a changing and global economy. Markets, industries, and technologies evolve and American businesses and workers need to be able to react and adapt to thrive. A 21st century trade agreement broadens our country’s reach and, done right, leads to more opportunity, more growth, and more job creation. It also supports the principle of trade according to fair rules, equally applied, as opposed to everyone doing whatever they want on a playing field that is far from level.

I am committed to policies that support a strong, long-term economy for hardworking Oregonians and Americans. A trade agreement done right can help achieve this goal.