Sessions warns giant trade deal cedes power to Obama, threatens US economy
WASHINGTON — Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is warning his colleagues and the American people about the dangers of approving the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), an executive branch agency that would allow the President to side-step Congress when creating trade agreements.
“Congress has the responsibility to ensure that any international trade agreement entered into by the United States must serve the national interest, not merely the interests of those crafting the proposal in secret,” said Sessions in a document underscoring his top five concerns with the TPA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) the new authority would “fast-track.”
“It must improve the quality of life, the earnings, and the per-capita wealth of everyday working Americans,” he continued. “The sustained long-term loss of middle class jobs and incomes should compel all lawmakers to apply added scrutiny to a ‘fast-track’ procedure wherein Congress would yield its legislative powers and allow the White House to implement one of (the) largest global financial agreements in our history—comprising at least 12 nations and nearly 40 percent of the world’s GDP.”
The majority of Congressional leadership, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH8), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) support the proposal.
According to Sen. Sessions, approving the TPA would strip the Senate’s authority to approve trade agreements by a 67-plus vote, and a 60-plus vote on related legislation.
Furthermore, Sessions warns the TPA could increase the country’s trade deficit—when a country imports more than it exports—something he asserts is detrimental to the U.S. economy.
“Barclays estimates that during the first quarter of this year, the overall U.S. trade deficit will reduce economic growth by .2 percent,” Sessions wrote. “History suggests that trade deals set into motion under the 6-year life of TPA could exacerbate our trade imbalance, acting as an impediment to both GDP and wage growth. Labor economist Clyde Prestowitz attributes 60 percent of the U.S.’ 5.7 million manufacturing jobs lost over the last decade to import-driven trade imbalances.”
Sessions also questioned whether or not the proposed TPP would improve the U.S. economy, including concerns that more manufacturing jobs would be shipped overseas, and reiterated the danger of ceding more power to the executive.
According to Sessions’ analysis, the TPA would allow any future trade agreements, including the TPP, to be considered “living agreements,” to be updated and changed without congressional oversight. “Promoters of TPA should explain why the American people ought to trust the Administration and its foreign partners to revise or rewrite international agreements, or add new members to those agreements, without congressional approval,” said Sessions. “Does this not represent an abdication of congressional authority?”
Most critical in this vein could be adding China, or another “currency manipulating” country to a trade agreement. By controlling the value of their currency compared to the U.S. dollar, China has been able to make their exports relatively cheaper compared to the United States’.
“Currency protections are currently absent from TPA, indicating again that those involved in pushing these trade deals do not wish to see these currency abuses corrected,” Sessions said. “Therefore, even if currency protections are somehow added into TPA, it is still entirely possible that the Administration could ignore those guidelines and send Congress unamendable trade deals that expose U.S. workers to a surge of underpriced foreign imports.”
Sessions also warned in his final point that fast-tracked trade agreements could be used as vehicles for immigration deals Congress may find objectionable.
“Thus, at any point during the 6-year life of TPA,” Sessions wrote, “the Administration could send Congress a trade deal—or issue an executive action subsequent to a trade deal as part of its implementation—that increased foreign worker entry into the U.S., all while claiming it has never changed immigration law. The President has circumvented Congress on immigration with serial regularity.”
Sessions implored his colleagues in the U.S. Senate to “slow down,” and make careful consideration of the implications of giving President Obama, and future presidents from either party, more ways to circumvent the legislative body.
“Our government must defend the legitimate interests of American workers and American manufacturing on the world stage,” Sessions said. “The time when this nation can suffer the loss of a single job as a result of a poor trade agreement is over.”
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— Elizabeth BeShears (@LizEBeesh) January 21, 2015