A Republican amendment attached to the House’s customs and trade bill would limit the Obama administration’s ability to include any climate change provisions in trade agreements.
The provision, sponsored by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Paul RyanPaul RyanFive fights for Trump’s first year Sunday shows preview: Trump stares down 100-day mark Ryan: Focus is on keeping government open, not healthcare MORE (R-Wis.), would “ensure that trade agreements do not require changes to U.S. law or obligate the United States with respect to global warming or climate change.”
It was added late Tuesday to the House’s customs bill, which lawmakers are using to put guidances and limitations on their so-called “fast track” legislation, allowing President Obama to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). It is therefore meant to apply to the TPP, but it would also apply to any other trade deals made under the fast-track authority, also known as Trade Promotion Authority.
Republicans count it among provisions they say would strengthen the Trans-Pacific Partnership and prevent Obama from changing environmental law through trade deals.
The bill has a similar provision regarding immigration agreements.
“It’s just making sure that if the administration wants to go down a path of seeking legislative changes in climate or immigration, they can’t do it through trade agreements,” Ryan said at a Rules Committee hearing on the legislation.
Doug Andres, a spokesman for Paul, said the congressional delegation of coal-heavy West Virginia, which could suffer from climate deals, requested the language.
Republicans have for years worked to stop internationally binding climate treaties, fearing the economic repercussions domestically.
Environmentalists were angered with the Paul amendment when they discovered it Wednesday, saying it would unnecessarily tie Obama’s hands when it comes to getting meaningful international work done on climate.
“President Obama needs to make it clear that ‘21st century trade deals’ cannot block climate action,” Luísa Abbott Galvão, a climate campaigner with Friends of the Earth, said in a statement.
“The president should start by telling Republican leadership and the public that the provision in the customs amendment is unacceptable. President Obama cannot credibly claim that trade deals will force other countries to raise their environmental standards if he allows the same deals to secure a pass for the U.S. to keep dumping carbon into the planet’s atmosphere,” she said.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), already a strong opponent of the fast-track authority, sharply criticized the amendment.
“Fast track trade authority is already primed to send jobs overseas, hurt the working people of this country and reduce Congressional oversight of our economy,” he said in a statement.
“Now Republicans want to use it to prevent any new climate change standards in our trade deals,” Grijalva continued. “Their goals have nothing to do with creating jobs and everything to do with jamming favors for their corporate sponsors into every bill they handle.”
Referring generally to the Republican amendments to the House customers bill, Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee, accused the GOP of “using the Customs bill as a vehicle to further in TPA their rigid ideological agenda.”