Bonamici Remarks in the Congressional Record on H.R. 2146, Trade Priorities and Accountability Act
Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 2146, the Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015. For the past several years I have had many conversations about trade with the people of Northwest Oregon. I’ve spoken with farmers, environmentalists, semiconductor manufacturers, wine makers, workers, sports and outdoor apparel employees, and others.
The district I represent has many trade-dependent jobs and industries. We export a broad array of products - from computer chips to potato chips. Last year in Oregon, nearly 6,000 Oregon companies exported more than $20 billion in products. Expanding the overseas markets for U.S. goods will help businesses expand in this country. Trade agreements done right make it easier to sell American-made goods and they level the playing field by reducing tariffs that currently make it difficult for Oregonians to compete in many of the world’s markets.
This legislation is not the trade agreement itself, but rather a bill through which Congress establishes requirements for the negotiation of trade agreements and the procedure for Congress to use when voting on whether to approve the agreement when it is final.
The Trade Priorities and Accountability Act earned my vote because it requires the President to negotiate a trade agreement that includes strong and enforceable labor and environmental standards, fosters innovation, would help expand exports, provides transparency for the American people, and guarantees a meaningful role for Congress in trade negotiations,
I strongly support the rights of workers and their ability to collectively bargain and work in a safe environment. I also oppose child labor and forced labor. The Trade Priorities and Accountability Act raises the bar in these areas and includes provisions that require trading partners to comply with internationally-accepted labor standards and face trade sanctions if they do not. For the first time it includes human rights – one of the cornerstones of our democratic values – as a negotiating objective. Oregon’s First Congressional District is known for its natural treasures – from the Pacific Ocean to the Columbia River to the Clatsop State Forest – and it is imperative that they be preserved for future generations. Deciding between conserving our natural resources and growing our economy is a false choice; we can and must do both. The Trade Priorities and Accountability Act ensures that our clean air, land, and water will not be up for negotiation.
The bill also protects 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.
The Trade Priorities and Accountability Act requires trade agreements to contain high standards and protections, and it also requires that the agreements include strong enforcement provisions to make clear that the standards and protections will be upheld and enforced.
It is important to my constituents that any trade agreement be accessible and transparent to the public. The Trade Priorities and Accountability Act includes unprecedented access to trade agreements; the entire final agreement must be made available to the public for a minimum of 60 days before the President signs it. 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.
To earn my vote, any trade agreement must be good for Americans. The jobs we gain by expanding exports tend to pay high wages, but there is a risk that some workers may be displaced by trade and by globalization. Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) is an important program to help workers transition into new fields by investing in skills and worker retaining. Without a reauthorization, TAA will expire at the end of September 2015. I voted in favor of TAA last week, but unfortunately it did not pass. But let me be very clear, I voted for the TPA again today because the Speaker, the Senate Majority Leader, and the President have committed that Trade Adjustment Assistance and customs enforcement legislation will also move forward without delay.
I was deeply concerned that an early version of TAA legislation included cuts to Medicare. Seniors serve our country, contribute to our economy, raise families, and strengthen communities across the nation. I urged House leadership to eliminate this provision. The bill I voted for did not cut Medicare and I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure seniors are not singled out to pay for this program.
This trade package, however, is far from perfect, and as we move forward I will continue to work to pass TAA and improve the trade agreement. I am very disappointed that partisan language to tie the administration’s hands on climate change was inserted at the last minute into the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act, which passed the House of Representatives last week without my support. I am also very concerned that two very smart enforcement provisions offered by my colleague from Oregon, Representative Earl Blumenauer, were deleted. His “Green 301” and enforcement fund provisions were very important to the overall effectiveness of the customs bill, and I will encourage the conferees to insist upon their inclusion in the bill we ultimately send to the President’s desk for signature.
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 all parties 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, and passing H.R. 2146 is an important step in this process.