Markup Statement: Senate Finance Committee Considers Trade Bills

WASHINGTON– Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) issued the following statement ahead of the Senate Finance Committee’s mark up of several trade related bills, including Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), legislation to extend trade preferences, which includes the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), and legislation to reauthorize customs and enforcement activities.

“I believe one of our top priorities as members of Congress must be to create a nurturing environment for job creation – and that’s what these trade bills are all about. We have to make sure American goods and services can reach international markets and that they compete on a level playing field when they get there. The reforms made in this Trade Promotion Authority deal are significant and will address concerns raised about previous trade agreements and ensure that American workers and businesses are better protected moving forward.

“We know all too well in Delaware that our poultry farmers, who create more than $4.5 billion in direct economic activity each year, face unfair trade barriers in various countries across the globe. In fact, our poultry farmers can’t even get their products to South Africa – the largest potential poultry market on that continent – because of unfair trade practices. Today we’ll consider changes to African Growth and Opportunity Act that can help address this issue, but I want to tear down barriers like these all over the world so Delaware chickens, and all kinds of other products made in my state and across our country, can be sold in international markets. That helps our country.    

“People think that because Americans can buy lots of products from across the globe, so can citizens of other countries.   That’s not always the case.   How many American cars are being sold in Japan, for example?    We need free trade agreements with other countries so that American products and services can compete on a level playing field. 

“Trade Promotion Authority is an important roadmap that gives Congress the opportunity to outline its priorities for negotiating a fair trade deal. That way, when our Trade Representative goes to negotiate with our international trading partners, he can point to the standards Congress said need to be met for a trade deal to move forward. With the exception of Richard Nixon, every President in the postwar era has had this authority.

“The reforms in this Trade Promotion Authority agreement are historic and significant. For the first time, there are requirements for enforceable labor and environmental provisions. There is a clear attention to issues like human rights.  And there is enhanced transparency for Congress and the public as trade agreements are being negotiated. This is the most far-reaching and progressive Trade Promotion Authority agreement that we’ve seen move through Congress.

“It’s important to remember that 95 percent of the world’s markets are outside our borders and many of the fastest-growing markets are in Asia. If we do not help to shape the rules so that our businesses and our workers can compete in those markets, then China will set up rules that advantage Chinese workers and Chinese businesses. And I know that China won’t demand the same strong protections for labor and the environment that we will.

“I’m a proponent of free trade because I know that when there are clear, fair, rules of the road for trade, American workers and American goods and services will always compete and win in the global economy. Our markets here are largely open, and have been for a long time, but these deals are about ensuring that American products have access to the international markets that try to keep our products or services out.

“In a global economy, some businesses will move jobs around the world as other markets offer distinct advantages.   But that will happen regardless of whether or not we pass trade deals.   My belief is that a strong trade deal, like we’re going to see with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, will actually help offset those losses with gains in other areas.   If more American products and services are being sold in markets that aren’t currently open to them, that will lead to economic growth that benefits American workers and businesses large and small.

“However, I am glad that today we are also considering the Trade Adjustment Assistance and Health Coverage Tax Credit programs that help workers who lose their jobs due to trade with job retraining and placement and health care. To me this is about the Golden Rule and I hope we can continue to support and strengthen these programs that treat workers the way each of us would want to be treated if we lost our jobs or had our hours or wages cut due to foreign competition. I believe that it is just as essential for Congress to move forward with the Trade Adjustment Assistance and Health Coverage Tax Credit bills as it is for us to move forward with the Trade Promotion Authority legislation.”