From the floor of the Senate:
Wyden Floor Statement Urging Support for Trans Pacific Partnership Act
In the debate in Congress over the last several weeks, I’ve heard a lot of my colleagues come to the floors of the Senate and House and say they’re tired of the NAFTA playbook on trade. They’re concerned that the package that’s once again before the Senate is more of the same.
Here’s my message on why this legislation (Trans Pacific Partnership Act) must move forward. If you believe NAFTA failed to protect American workers and strengthen our economy, this is your chance to set a new course. This is your chance to put in place higher standards in trade for issues like labor rights and environmental protections, shine sunlight on agreements, and ensure that the U.S. writes the rules of the road.
The reality is, in 2015, globalization is a fact of life. The choice is whether to sit back and allow globalization to push and pull on our economy in ways dictated by countries like China – or to enter the ring and fight for a stronger economic future, protect our workers, and promote our values.
I say to my colleagues, if you believe like I do that it’s time to close the books once and for all on the NAFTA era in trade, this legislation deserves your support.
I’ll point to an op-ed that ran in the Oregonian newspaper a few months ago to describe why I hold that view. The headline on the op-ed called this package “a blueprint for ‘trade done right.’”
It recognized that this package lays out, “a hard-and-fast checklist for the TPP, holding the Obama administration accountable for meeting its goals and conditions…”
It said this legislation, “will reorient priorities and improve the process for the TPP and other trade agreements in the future.”
I completely agree with that summary, but the Senate does not have to take my word for it. These are the words of Tim Nesbitt, the past president of the Oregon AFL-CIO, who has disagreed with me on trade right down the line for many years. Yet now he writes that this bill provides a fresh opportunity for trade done right, and Tim is correct.
Next, when it comes to core American values – labor rights, environmental protection, and human rights – this trade legislation raises the bar and demands more from our trade deals than ever before.
This is all about preventing a race to the bottom. If the U.S. doesn’t fight to protect worker rights and the environment with tough, enforceable trade agreements, those priorities will wither away. China won’t take up the banner for American values in trade.
This legislation says that the U.S. is done with the NAFTA-era approach of taking it on blind faith that other countries would live up to their word. In the future, if Malaysia or Vietnam break their commitments to protect worker rights, the U.S. will have more power than ever to hold them accountable with trade sanctions. The same goes for environmental protections. And under this bipartisan legislation, our trade deals for the first time will help to drive progress on human rights and battle corruption.
Furthermore, with Mexico and Canada at the table for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, there is an opportunity to fix many places where NAFTA fell short.
So if you believe that the U.S. should stop a race to the bottom on labor rights, environmental safeguards, and human rights, this is your chance to lift global standards up.
I want to step back and talk about the enormous potential that this trade package holds for my home state of Oregon in terms of jobs and exports and economic opportunity. My bottom line is that we should make things and grow things in this country, add value to them in this country, and ship them to markets overseas. And Oregon knows how to make that happen.
One in five jobs in my home state depends on trade, and those jobs pay higher on average than non-trade jobs. More than 6,000 Oregon businesses are exporters, and almost 90 percent of them are small- and medium-sized. Even in 2015, those businesses who look overseas for opportunities to export face serious hurdles.
I’ll use Oregon farmers as an example. Oregonians grow hazelnuts, seeds, and wheat, They make world-class wine. If Oregonians tried to eat all the blueberries grown in-state, they’d choke.
And the fact is, if our farmers want to sell their products in Japan, they face average tariffs of 40 percent. If you want to export your blueberry jam to Vietnam, it will be marked up by 40 percent. If you want to sell a bottle of wine in either of those two countries, you have to fork over 50 percent of the value to their government.
There are countries who would say that just because Tillamook makes its cheeses in Oregon, it should not be allowed to use the words “parmesan” or “mozzarella” to name or describe them.
And there are major barriers blocking manufactured goods, as well. If Chris King Precision Components, based in Portland, goes to Malaysia to sell their bike parts, they face tariffs up to 35 percent. The high-tech instruments made by Tektronix and equipment made by Flir Systems face tariffs up to 50, 60, or 70 percent in countries across the Pacific.
Electronic components, machinery, paper – straight down the line, the products made in my home state and across the U.S. face punishing tariffs. Businesses that offer services like architectural plans and engineering designs also face their own serious barriers.
If you believe that other countries should open their markets to American exports just like the U.S. is open to theirs, this is your chance to break down tariffs and other barriers.
Next, nobody in the NAFTA era could have designed the right tools to protect the modern Internet. Twenty-five years ago, it was impossible to make a living by setting up a business online. Cell phones were as big as bricks. And in fact, the NAFTA negotiations began a year before the first website was set up.
Today, Internet commerce is at the heart of our economy. Oregon is home to the Silicon Forest, world-class app developers, and top-notch software developers. My home state is at the vanguard of the digital economy in 2015.
And it’s my view that the old playbook on trade can’t keep up with modern threats to the open Internet.
Repressive countries like China and Russia are building digital walls at their borders that keep our online businesses locked out. They cause direct harm to the big thinking entrepreneurs in Oregon who want to launch the next app or website. And those walls punish the small businessmen and women who want to sell their wares to the world on eBay or Etsy.
If you want to cement America’s leadership in the digital economy, this is your chance to vote for trade policies that will protect a free and open Internet that will work for the U.S.
Finally, when I talk with people back home about trade deals, another one of the values I hear about again and again is openness in government. People are absolutely right to feel that there’s too much secrecy in trade. I’ve always felt that if you believe deeply in international trade and you want more of it, why in the world would you be for all of this secrecy?
The way things are today, it’s largely up to the administration to decide how transparent our policies will be. But in my view, the American people cannot sit in the dark with respect to trade any longer. So I fought to guarantee in this legislation that Congress would take a front seat in driving a new level of openness.
Under this new system, before the President can sign a trade deal, the full text has to be released to the public for 60 days. Add in time for Congress to act, and there will be no fewer than four months when anybody can open up a proposed trade deal and read it for themselves. That’s before a single vote is cast. Members of the public can call their representatives in Congress or go to town hall meetings and ask all the questions they want.
With this legislation, there’s going to be a new transparency officer at the office of the Trade Representative. The whole job description is about making sure the right policies are in place to inform the public of what’s at stake in trade deals. Congress and the public will get frequent updates while talks are happening, and it will be easier than ever for members and their staffs to get access to text.
And finally, if members of Congress believe the deal isn’t the best possible outcome for American workers and exporters, it’ll be easier than ever to put on the brakes. There will be significant new powers, especially for the committees with jurisdiction in the Senate and House. But none of this additional transparency, none of these checks on the trade negotiating process, will go into effect unless this trade package moves forward.
So if you believe our trade deals should be less secretive, this is your chance to shine sunlight on trade policies and create real accountability in negotiations.
The process for considering this legislation has been complicated, but I believe everybody who supports it can trust that each of its core elements will become law.
I appreciate that the Senate and House leaders from the other side have committed to moving Trade Adjustment Assistance alongside Trade Promotion Authority, as well as a proposal from Senator Brown to strengthen our trade remedies.
When the goal is enacting trade policies that give all Americans a chance to get ahead, Trade Adjustment Assistance is an absolute must-pass bill, and I am confident that it will get through Congress to the president’s desk. That bill also includes the vitally important program that helps create new trade opportunities for impoverished nations in Africa.
The customs enforcement bill is also moving forward on a bipartisan basis, but our work there is not yet done. The Senate must resolve differences in the enforcement bill with the other body. I want to be clear that I expect that conference to respect Democratic priorities and my Democratic colleagues and I will be laying down markers on a few of our top priorities. Those priorities include provisions in the Senate bill championed by Senator Shaheen, which will help ensure small businesses can take full advantage of trade, provisions authored by Senator Bennet to secure enforcement of environmental commitments, and Senator Cantwell’s trade enforcement trust fund.
In my view, Congress has an opportunity with this legislation to show that it can work in a bipartisan way to take on the big economic challenges before the U.S.
This package is all about getting past NAFTA and moving toward “trade done right.” So colleagues, let’s pry open foreign markets and send more of our exports abroad. Let’s fight for the Oregon Brand and the American Brand against the bad actors and trade cheats who block our way. Let’s raise the bar for American values and open up our trade policies to sunlight.
I urge everyone in this body to vote yes on cloture today and support this trade package as it moves forward this week.