Democrats blast unions’ pressure tactics on trade

4 Jun 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Both Sides Expressing Confidence in U.S. House Trade Vote Fight.

China could eventually join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade zone which is currently under negotiation, US President Barack Obama said in an interview overnight. “They’ve already started putting out feelers about the possibilities of them participating at some point,” Obama told US public radio’s Marketplace program on Wednesday.Barry C Lynn looks at the easing of America’s trading relationship with China in the 1990s and the present dilemma for the US in managing its dependence and weaker status.House Republicans and the White House are expressing confidence they’ll win final passage of President Barack Obama’s fast-track trade bill, though Representative Rosa DeLauro says she and other opponents shouldn’t be counted out. “I believe we have the votes,” said the Connecticut Democrat on Wednesday, referring to the number needed to defeat the measure in a House vote expected in a week or two.

Washington has been pushing the TPP, which aims for a loosening of trade restrictions and embraces 11 other Pacific Rim countries including Japan, Canada, Australia and Mexico, while notably excluding China. Boehner, rarely on the same page on anything, both took to the airwaves Wednesday to promote free-trade legislation, with undecided House lawmakers in their respective parties.

AMERICA’S failure in recent years to keep careful watch over what goods are made where — especially when it comes to such vital items as electronics and drugs — means the US now depends far more on China than vice versa. China is not one of the 11 countries involved and Obama has often said the deal itself is necessary to keep China, which has the world’s second largest economy, from writing the rules on trade in the Asia-Pacific region.

The US Senate overcame bitter divisions last Friday to pass legislation that gives Mr Obama authority to swiftly forge international trade pacts, speeding the completion of the TPP. But Mr Obama and other supporters insist the TPP will level the playing field for US workers, and allow the country to help write the rules of 21st century global trade rather than economic rival China. “If we are not there helping to shape the rules of the road, then US businesses and US workers are going to be cut out, because there’s a pretty big country there, called China, that is growing fast, has great gravitational pull and often operates with different sets of rules,” Mr Obama told Marketplace. China has been advocating the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) over the TPP, and managed to have the plan endorsed at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit in Beijing in November last year. He also did a radio interview saying greater international trade benefits middle-class families, while labor unions and liberal advocacy groups stepped up their campaign to deny president the authority to negotiate his proposed massive free-trade pact with a group of Pacific Rim nations. Later in the interview with Ryssdal, Obama said there are “a lot more winners than loser” in the deal, which has faced the fiercest backlash from members of his own party.

The trade measure, passed in May by the Senate, would let Obama submit trade agreements to Congress for an expedited, up-or-down vote without amendments. He said it offers the potential for “rich export opportunities” and high-paying export jobs Lori Pelletier, executive secretary treasurer of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, said Himes’ decision is a “major disappointment.” Organized labor says previous trade deals have cost the U.S. jobs. The president has said he wants to complete a 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership and send it for approval under that procedure. “Most of our efforts are concentrated in trying to persuade Democratic lawmakers to support this legislation,” said Earnest during a briefing Wednesday.

Boehner, Ohio Republican, took very different approach by urging wary GOP lawmakers to approve trade-promotion authority so that, he said, Congress will have another check on the president’s powers. “The way things work now, the president can negotiate a trade agreement on his own, without any direction from Congress,” Mr. That means more transparency, which means more authority for the American people.” “We’ve got some Republicans who don’t trust the president to do anything and don’t want to give him any authority at all for anything, and I understand their concerns,” Mr. Two House aides said last week that informal vote counts showed more than 200 Republicans supporting the measure and about 25 House Democrats prepared to vote yes — enough for a clear majority.

And that’s why, frankly, I’ve worked with the president on a number of trade agreements over the course of his tenure and my tenure as speaker.” The bill would grant Mr. DeLauro, when asked about specific numbers of Republicans and Democrats ready to oppose the measure, replied: “You don’t believe I’m going to tell you how many votes I have, do you?” Scalise and others are holding one-on-one meetings this week with undecided Republicans, said California Republican Devin Nunes, a fast-track supporter. The “fast-track” power is needed, supporters argue, so other nations in the negotiations can trust the deals the U.S. makes at the bargaining table. This is the opposite of what was supposed to happen when the United States and its allies created the World Trade Organisation in the mid-1990s and then invited Beijing to join. Republican supporters pointed with approval to Obama’s plans to press the case through speeches, interviews on local television stations to promote trade, and offering cover to Democrats who are on the fence.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, not historically a supporter of fast-track authority, has been giving supporters a free hand to persuade undecided lawmakers. Obama any new powers, arguing that he has exceeded his constitutional authority on issues ranging from immigration amnesty to environmental regulations. The possibility of Democratic leaders asking some members on Obama’s behalf to support the bill “certainly could be an option,” second-ranking House Democrat Steny Hoyer of Maryland said Wednesday.

Pelosi, who is concerned about Democrats who vote “yes” being targeted for defeat by labor unions — most of whom ardently oppose TPP — in 2016. “We do continue to have a lot of confidence in the effectiveness of that relationship,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest of Mrs. Given that supply chains often run on a just-in-time basis, in which goods are produced only as fast as they are consumed, there are often no backup supplies nearby.

Earnest replied, “She doesn’t have a vote in Congress.” The president’s sales job comes as he prepares to attend the summit of G-7 nations in Germany beginning on Sunday, with leaders of all those countries watching the battle in Congress closely. Canada and Japan would be part of the TPP; France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy would be included in the proposed “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership” that comes next on Mr. Earnest said the president and his advisers will “project confidence” at the G-7 about the prospects of getting the trade bill approved in the House.

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