WASHINGTON, D.C. – As Trade Promotion Authority, or “fast track,” legislation continues to be pending on the Senate floor, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley filed a package of amendments focused on creating good-paying jobs in America.
“The trade policy we put in place today will have profound effects on our workers and our economy for decades to come,” said Merkley, urging greater debate and more amendment votes as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved to shut down debate on the legislation. “Past trade deals have consistently failed to live up to their promises and have cost us good jobs and made it harder for American workers to get ahead. We need a full and robust debate and a chance to offer amendments to fix serious flaws in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.”
The amendments authored by Merkley are as follows:
Preventing a Global Race to the Bottom in Wages
This amendment would add a negotiating objective requiring trade agreements to include a minimum wage that must be matched or exceeded by all participating countries and which must rise over time to narrow the wage gap between developed and developing countries. Currently, for example, Vietnam’s and Mexico’s minimum wages are approximately 70 cents per hour, forcing American workers to compete with workers earning one-tenth of their wage or less. This is a formula guaranteed to ship American manufacturing jobs overseas.
Making Labor, Environmental, and Human Rights Objectives Mandatory
This amendment would require the negotiating objectives in the fast track bill to be achieved in trade deals in order for those deals to get the special protections of the fast track bill. In the current bill, trade agreements can get fast track protections even if they fail to achieve the negotiating objectives laid out by Congress.
Protecting Consumers and the Environment from Unaccountable Corporate Tribunals
This amendment would prevent any trade agreement from being authorized under fast track if the agreement does not exempt laws that protect consumers, public health, or the environment from being challenged in the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) process. ISDS gives foreign corporations the ability to challenge U.S. laws and regulations that they argue harm their investments in special tribunals run and staffed by corporate lawyers.
Protecting Consumers’ Right-to-Know in Food Products
This amendment would prevent any trade agreement from being authorized under fast track if it doesn’t protect the United States’ right to inform the public about food in U.S. markets, including through labeling. This would include country-of-origin food labeling, which was recently undermined by a World Trade Organization ruling.
Merkley also cosponsored several amendments offered by other Senators:
Protecting Financial Reform and Consumer Protection
This amendment, offered by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), would prevent future administrations from using new trade agreements to weaken Dodd-Frank or other financial regulations and consumer protections. Big banks and European nations are pushing to weaken U.S. financial regulations, such as tougher capital standards for big banks enacted in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown, in an upcoming round of trade talks.
Read more about this amendment and view a quote from Merkley on this issue here.
Strengthening U.S. Manufacturing by Cracking Down on Currency Manipulation
This amendment, offered by Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), would strengthen provisions cracking down on currency manipulation. Currency manipulation has cost American manufacturers and American jobs by essentially acting as an invisible tariff on U.S.-made products and an invisible subsidy for products made in nations that engage in currency manipulation.
Strengthening U.S. Manufacturing by Leveling the Playing Field
This amendment, offered by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), would help strengthen U.S. manufacturing by making countervailing duty and anti-dumping claims against foreign companies easier to bring and to resolve successfully, helping to level the playing field for American manufacturers in international trade.
Enhancing Congressional Input in Trade Negotiations
This amendment, offered by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), would require a vote of Congress before other countries sign onto free trade agreements. The TPP reportedly has a “docking” provision that could allow China and other nations to join the TPP later, and such potential additions merit close scrutiny.