Obama has yet to sell House Democrats on his trade agenda

4 Jun 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

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

These Democrats note that labor unions are running hard-hitting ads against those supporting Obama’s trade agenda. One of the most notable aspects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal—currently under negotiations between 12 Pacific Rim nations—has been that it does not include China.As the House prepares to vote on a bill that would grant President Barack Obama unilateral trade authority, a major union Wednesday encouraged opponents to call their representatives. “This Wednesday, June 3, labor and our allies are acting together to make our voices heard loudly and clearly,” The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) declared in a statement. “Join us in calling our representatives in Congress to urge them to stop this runaway trade deal,” the union went onto say. “We need fair trade, not another rush to help multinational corporations at the expense of workers.” Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), also known as fast-track, has created a wedge between the president and many on the left, including labor unions.

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. If passed, the president could submit a finalized trade deal to Congress that could not be amended or filibustered and would only need a straight up- or down-vote. The CEO there supports the deal. “These things have expanded the economy in the past,” says John Muncaster. “If we don’t join the world league and play in it – and then we’ll have to go back down to the minor league.” The company employs around 120 people and exports to more than 30 countries. Taking questions from the US public radio show “Marketplace,” Obama said, “Well, they’ve already started putting out feelers about the possibilities of them participating at some point… To us, to Jack Lew, the Treasury Secretary…” Obama faces skepticism from his own party about the TPP, which many contend will hurt US wages and jobs. If fast-track passes, the president would be able to get TPP through much more easily. “In the past, deals that were approved through the fast-track process caused a loss of jobs, pushed down wages, undermined our communities and gave special legal rights to corporations,” AFSCME claimed.

In an interview on Fox News Radio’s “Kilmeade and Friends,” he said he hoped to get the fast-track measure onto the House floor in the next few weeks. And after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) some are leery and expect more jobs to head overseas. “The American worker was sold a bill of goods with NAFTA, where it was supposed to raise wages across the Globe and be good for American jobs. 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. Said Obama: The fact is that if we have 11 of the leading economies in the Asia-Pacific region, who have agreed to enforceable labor standards, enforceable environmental standards, strong I.P. protections, non-discrimination against foreign firms that are operating access to those markets, reduced tariffs, then China is going to have to at least take those international norms into account.

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. And, we are still pursuing strong bilateral economic relations with China, we still pressure them around issues like currency, or the subsidies that they may be engaged in, or theft of intellectual property… So, part of what we’re doing here is we’re leveling up, as opposed to a race to the bottom, which means no labor protections, no environmental protections. We know that,” says York. “People feel burned over the last 20-30 years when they’ve seen outsourcing take place,” says President Obama. “They’ve seen wages flat even as corporate profits go up. We want to make sure that there is a level playing field that’s going to allow us to be successful, and will help to shape trade and commerce, not just in the region, but in the world for a long time to come. While China seemed to perceive the TPP as a threat a few years ago, more recently it’s become quiet on the issue, as reported in late April by The New York Times.

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. As Obama noted in a recent speech at Nike, the deal protect workers’ freedom to form unions in countries that previously did not have such protections. “So when you look at a country like Vietnam, under this agreement, Vietnam would actually, for the first time, have to raise its labor standards,” Obama argues. “It would even have to protect workers’ freedom to form unions— for the very first time.” In the “Labor and the Environment” section, the TPA bill dictates that any trade deal that comes about through it, whether it’s TPP or not, must adopt and maintain measures implementing internationally recognized core labor standards. 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.

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. 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.

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