New York lawmakers opposing Pacific trade deal

A bipartisan group of New York lawmakers on Wednesday told President Obama they are opposing a sweeping Asia-Pacific trade agreement.

The lawmakers — 13 Democrats and six Republicans of the 27-member delegation — sent a letter to the White House expressing “firm opposition” to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as negotiated because it will lead to more job losses for U.S. workers.

"We are united in our opposition to the agreement and in our belief that the TPP will harm many working and middle-class families in New York and across the country,” the lawmakers wrote. 

Rep. Louise Slaughter (D), who has long been opposed to the TPP,  said that she has "never seen a trade agreement that benefited the American manufacturer or American worker, and the TPP will just be more of the same.”

“Rochester lost tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs under NAFTA, culminating in one of the highest poverty rates in America," she said. "This bipartisan opposition to the TPP is making clear to the Administration that another NAFTA-style agreement would be bad for New York and the country."

The lawmakers say New York was especially hard hit by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) — shedding more than 370,000 manufacturing jobs since 1994 — and that the TPP will only deliver more of the same for workers.

"Western New York bears the scars of poorly negotiated past free trade agreements; scars like lost jobs, shuttered factories, and a generation lost to economic opportunities that were outsourced to foreign competitors," said Rep. Chris Collins (R). 

"I cannot support a trade agreement that once again threatens America's working middle class, and fails to address several of the biggest challenges facing American manufacturers including currency manipulation and intellectual property protection,” he said.

Collins said he doesn't believe the TPP will pass this Congress because support is waning in both parties. 

What he says he wants to see stopped is American companies making their products overseas and shipping them back into the United States.

"I favor a tariff that would level the playing field," Collins said.

He suggested tariffs should be applied to those products to counteract what he estimated is a 30 percent cost advantage gained over U.S. goods through lower wages, looser regulations and currency manipulation.

Tariffs should be calculated differently for each country based on the cost differential, he said. 

Collins said that the tariffs would remain in place until it is determined that the U.S. and the competing country have similar cost levels.  

The idea is similar to the one proposed by Republican presidential front-runner Donald TrumpDonald TrumpObama reads mean tweet from Trump on ‘Kimmel’ 5 takeaways from the Pa. Senate debate Report: Clinton ordered operative to troll Trump with duck MORE, who has suggested applying a 30 to 40 percent tariff on products coming in from Mexico and other countries that are made by U.S. companies who have moved outside the border to take advantage of lower costs such as labor and taxes.

Rep. Curt Clawson (R-Fla.), who stopped by the press conference on Capitol Hill, said that the trade issue is very emotional for him and that lawmakers should do "better for the American worker" and his party needs to "think about the little guy just once in a while."

"Let's take care of the American worker for a change," Clawson said. 

In the letter, the lawmakers said that currency manipulation is one of the "greatest issues" facing U.S. manufacturers and is estimated to have suppressed millions of U.S. jobs.

"Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore each have histories of artificially controlling their currencies, yet the TPP provides no enforceable protections against their doing so," they wrote in the letter. "The side declaration on currency practices is insignificant, unenforceable and does little to assuage our concerns."

Congressional Republican leaders have said the TPP would have to wait until the lame-duck session after the elections. 

Most Democrats in the Congress are already opposed to the TPP. Only 28 House Democrats supported the president's efforts to pass last summer trade promotion authority, which will allow only an up-or-down vote on the trade agreement

Other lawmakers signing the letter were: Reps. Yvette Clarke (D), Dan Donovan Jr. (R), Eliot Engel, (D), Chris Gibson (R), Brian Higgins (D), Hakeem Jeffries (D), John Katko (R), Nita Lowey (D), Carolyn Maloney (D), Sean Patrick Maloney (D), Grace Meng (D), Jerrold Nadler (D), Tom Reed (R), José Serrano, (D), Paul Tonko (D), Nydia Velázquez (D) and Lee Zeldin, (R).