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Free Trade Agreements

Floor Speech

Date: Jan. 27, 2015
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Trade

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Mr. TONKO. Mr. Speaker, we thank you for the opportunity to gather as
Democrats in this 30-minute Special Order opportunity to discuss our
Nation's recent free trade agreements. And I will note that
nomenclature: free trade. There are concerns about fair trade being the
outcome, and we will be talking about that here in this format.

This is more important now than ever before as our United States
Trade Representative Ambassador Michael Froman testified before the
House and Senate today. The Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations are
being held as we speak this week in New York City. And some Members of
Congress have suggested a trade promotion authority bill, better
referenced as a ``fast track,'' that may be introduced in the near
future, a fast track that would deny the checks and balances of
Congress, one that would not allow us to actively overview the impact
of these negotiated settlements, these contracts, and would require a
simple thumbs up-thumbs down vote without, again, that interactive
quality that serves that responsibility to the Members of Congress.

But before we give away Congress' ability to conduct proper oversight
and review these trade agreements that are currently being negotiated,
including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we need to discuss how free
trade agreements from the past two decades have not delivered on their
promises.

These trade deals will have far-reaching impacts on American life.
They could include impacts on food safety or perhaps affordable
medicine or perhaps regulations with the banking industry, the
financial industry.

Let's not be reckless and allow these deals to move forward without
thorough and proper consideration by Congress. Frankly, these deals
have not lived up to the hype. President Obama indicated as much in his
recent State of the Union message: ``I'm the first one to admit that
past trade deals haven't always lived up to the hype.''

So whether it was NAFTA--the North America Free Trade Agreement--or
the Korean Free Trade Agreement, supporters of our past FTAs have
promised these deals would create a good outcome, create United States
jobs, create a lesser trade deficit, and improve global labor and
global environmental standards.

Tragically, sadly, this has not been the outcome.

TPP supporters have said this one will be different. The Trans-
Pacific Partnership, which could cover a great majority of the
international economy, has its supporters saying that this will be a
21st century agreement, far different from those that have preceded it.

Leaked information from the TPP negotiators shows that it is being
modeled by the negotiations, themselves, not by the negotiators,
showing that it has been modeled on trade policies that have proven to
offshore good-paying jobs in our economy and to force wages down for
America's working families. That is why respected economists, including
many who have previously supported free trade, such as Jeffrey Sachs,
as well as Nobel Prize winners Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, have
expressed skepticism about the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiation.
They are coming to realize what many of our constituents have long
known: these trade agreements do not respond favorably to the American
middle class.

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Tonight, I hope we can have a thoughtful discussion about jobs, about
wages, about environmental standards that could be impacted, about
child labor laws that could, perhaps, be thrust upon us that have been
promised for every FTA in the past two decades. Sadly, our constituents
are looking for that sort of progressive outcome that has not been
realized, and, certainly, our workers have been impacted. I represent a
district that is tremendously impacted by these trade negotiations.

So, tonight, it is a pleasure to work with my colleagues in order to
get out the message about the broken promises of our trade agreements.

I see my good friend and colleague who has been a very passionate
voice on speaking out about these issues. He is Tim Ryan, our
Representative from Ohio's 13th District. Let me yield to Mr. Ryan so
he can share some thoughts with us.

Welcome.

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Mr. TONKO. Thank you, Representative Ryan, for bringing it right down
to the basic, core ingredient, and that is the dignity of work for
American families. You speak it so well for those you represent in
Ohio.

This is about broken promises. It is about promises for jobs,
promises for worker opportunity, promises for environmental standards,
promises for labor standards. We need to let the American public know
exactly what is happening. If you are a believer in fair trade--not
necessarily in free trade. If you believe in fair trade and if you
don't think of fast track, which is when we circumvent the authorities
and responsibilities of Congress, then let your voice in Congress know
that. Let everyone know what you are thinking, because these are
critical moments.

Mr. Speaker, I yield to a good friend and colleague who is a very
outspoken voice for social and economic justice, who has spoken to the
unfairness of these negotiated arrangements for trade, and who has led
us as a Democratic Caucus in this House to speak out forcefully about
the fast-track process and about fair trade versus free trade. She is
none other than my good friend and colleague from the Third District of
the State of Connecticut, Rosa DeLauro.

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Mr. TONKO. Thank you, Representative DeLauro. You strike a very
encouraging cord at the end of your comments.

The American public needs to be engaged, if you believe that Congress
should have overview responsibility, a checks and balances agenda,
because these agreements need to be front and center about the well-
being of American workers, and so call into this process, reach into
this process, and share your opinion with those who speak for you in
the House.

Is a fast track a thing you want to see--without the information
exchange--or do you want Congress to review these contracts and
understand what impact there will be on the American economy, on
American jobs, on standards for the environment, for public safety, for
child labor laws, a number of things?

We appreciate your comments.

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Mr. TONKO. Very well stated. Every bit of American style is about
tethering the American Dream. The people come here to have the right to
the dignity of work and to pursue that American Dream.

One of our newest faces in Congress in his second term, I believe,
has been an outspoken voice for the American Dream. I yield to the
Representative from Wisconsin's Second District to share his thoughts
about the process here for fast track and free versus fair trade.

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Mr. TONKO. Thank you, Representative Pocan. I again urge the general
public out there to engage in this process. Let your Representative
know if you believe we should have overview authority and that we
should have the chance to know what is in these negotiated agreements.

This affects our American economy, the American Dream. It is about
jobs. It is about wages. It is about critical labor standards. It is
about critical environmental standards. We can make it happen. We can
work on trade issues and have fair trade out there that will grow our
economy and grow the American Dream for America's working families.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

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