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Sen. Merkley to President Obama: “Make sure international trade benefits the U.S. Middle Class and U.S. Manufacturers

Sen. Jeff Merkley
D-Oregon

United States Senator

Washington, DC – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley today urged President Obama to include in the upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement new and stronger provisions to ensure that responsible U.S. businesses that pay well and meet high labor and environmental standards can compete successfully in the global economy which benefits all Americans, including the middle class.

Merkley’s letter asks the President to negotiate a new approach to labor and environmental standards that makes them enforceable using existing trade remedies. It also asks that the treaty crack down on the threats to U.S. businesses and workers from foreign industrial policies, such as subsidies from state-owned banks and forced technology transfers that disadvantage American businesses, especially manufacturers. In last night’s State of the Union address, President Obama vowed to put the finishing touches on the TPP.

“When free and fair, trade can encourage competition in the market, offer consumers a wider selection of better quality products at lower prices, and raise living standards around the world,” wrote Senator Merkley. “The success of our trade policies, like our economic success more broadly, should be measured by whether they move America’s middle class forward and help advance a vibrant, diverse economy with a robust manufacturing sector. I look forward to working with you to make trade with Asia a source of economic strength for U.S. businesses and workers.”

Ideas presented by Senator Merkley in his letter to President Obama to strengthen the upcoming TPP Agreement include:

Specifically and powerfully addressing the multi-tiered industrial policies that are particularly prominent in the Pacific region and that pose a serious threat to a free and open global trading regime, including:

* trade-distorting subsidy programs and practices, such as major, inappropriate grants for cheap land and utilities, preferential loans from export development banks, and discriminatory or unaccountable tax rebates;
* broad-based industrial subsidies such as strategically misaligned currencies, discriminatory policies that favor state-owned enterprises, and artificially cheap financing from state-owned banking systems; and
* strategic non-tariff barriers, such as mandatory joint venture requirements, forced technology transfers, opaque approval processes, and discriminatory technology standards.
* Taking a new and creative approach to stopping the global “race to the bottom” on labor and environmental practices , specifically by setting standards for fair labor and environmental practices, and making them enforceable using the same tools available for enforcing other provisions of trade agreements.

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