Congressman Ruben Gallego Calls for a Greater Role for Congress to Ensure a New American Trade Policy Creates Middle Class Jobs
WASHINGTON, D.C.— U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego (AZ-7) today released a letter calling for greater congressional involvement to turnaround U.S. trade policies that have resulted in large, chronic trade deficits, the net loss of more than 5 million U.S. manufacturing jobs, flat median wages despite significant productivity gains and the highest levels of income inequality since the 1920s.
Gallego, joined by eight other freshman lawmakers, called for a new approach to U.S. trade negotiations that would create pacts promoting Middle Class job creation. They announced that they would not give up their constitutional authority to oversee foreign trade agreements.
“We are all deeply committed to creating jobs in our communities and across the country, to providing access to affordable healthcare and medicines and to promoting a healthy environment,” the members wrote. “To do so effectively, we believe it is critical that Congress maintains its authority to ensure American trade agreements are a good deal for the American people.”
Since the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), U.S. trade pacts have followed a model that would be replicated and expanded on in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). U.S. trade deficits have grown more than 440% with countries with which such fast-tracked free trade agreements (FTA) were implemented, but declined 16% with non-FTA countries. U.S. export growth to countries that are not FTA partners has exceeded U.S. export growth to FTA partners by 30 percent over the past decade. Nearly 5 million U.S. manufacturing jobs — one in four — were lost since the Fast Tracking of NAFTA and various NAFTA-expansion deals.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, three of every five manufacturing workers who lose jobs to trade and find reemployment take pay cuts, with one in three losing greater than 20 percent. Overall, U.S. wages have barely increased in real terms since 1974 — the year Fast Track was first enacted — while U.S. worker productivity has doubled. Study after study has revealed an academic consensus that status quo trade has contributed to the unprecedented rise in income inequality.
Unfortunately, the most recent U.S. trade deal with Korea in 2011 has hurt, not helped, U.S. jobs and exports. In just the first two years of this Fast Tracked pact, which was used as the template for the TPP, the U.S. trade deficit with Korea grew 50 percent — which equates to 50,000 more American jobs lost to bad trade policy. Trade data just released by the Census Bureau shows the problem is getting worse: The U.S. had a $2.8 billion monthly trade deficit with Korea in November, the highest monthly U.S. goods trade deficit with Korea on record. And, after this deal went into effect, U.S. small businesses’ exports to Korea declined sharply, falling 14 percent.
The Constitution provides Congress with the authority to oversee all international trade agreements, but the administration is seeking to reinstitute a process called “Fast Track” that would allow the president to sign and enter into the TPP before Congress approves it and then would require a yes or no vote on the signed pact within ninety days with no amendments allowed and limited debate.
“We join the vast majority of House Democrats in the 113th Congress who announced opposition to Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority,” said the members. “Nearly every Ranking Member and large blocs of the New Democrat Coalition, Blue Dogs, Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus were united in opposing Fast Track and demanding a replacement to that Nixon-era procedure that Congress has refused to authorize but for five of the past twenty years.”
In addition to Gallego, the letter was signed by U.S. Reps. Brendan F. Boyle (PA-13), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), Ted Lieu (CA-33), Kathleen Rice (NY-4), Mark Takai (HI-1) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12)
View full letter, here.