Battle over trade powers continues

Trade remained a hot topic on Monday as supporters and opponents staked out their positions with the introduction of trade promotion authority (TPA) legislation on the horizon.

The White House and organized labor boiled down their conflicting arguments to whether the trade agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), will help or hurt U.S. workers and their wages.


President Obama told the National Governors Association at the White House that "it’s a good thing when workers and businesses can compete on a level playing field, with new agreements for fair and free trade in some of the world’s fastest-growing markets."

But AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a nearly one-minute video message released Monday that opposing TPA, also called fast-track authority, isn't complicated.

"Let me tell you, here’s what it means … it means lost jobs and lower wages. That’s it."

The AFL-CIO's Executive Council put on a lengthier statement on its trade stance. 

"The trade policies of the United States are undermining the interests of working people," they wrote.  

"When decisions about economic policy are made behind closed doors, those decisions tend to advance the policy preferences of political and economic elites, not the broad interests of the populace at large," the council wrote.

"U.S. trade policy decisions have been made this way for years, and America’s workers, small farmers, small businesses and domestic producers have paid the price," the statement said.

"Unfortunately, we see no sign that the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) and other trade negotiations currently underway are likely to make trade policy materially better from the perspective of workers or the public interest." 

Meanwhile, U.S. Chamber President Thomas Donohue said Monday that TPA is vital to completing the ambitious trade agenda, which includes TPP and a developing agreement with the European Union.

"When it comes to the benefits of trade, American workers are among the biggest winners,” said Donohue in remarks to the Grand Rapids Economic Club.

"But we can’t secure new trade agreements without trade promotion authority. TPA is indispensable — the United States has never passed a major trade pact without it. TPA has been a key part of U.S. trade diplomacy and we cannot afford to be without it much longer."

Donohue said that "the bottom line is that you can’t be pro-trade and anti-TPA."

In recent months, President Obama and his Cabinet have taken aggressive steps to persuade Democrats to support TPA and the broader trade agenda. 

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchBottom line Bottom line Senate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  MORE (R-Utah), panel ranking member Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanKenosha will be a good bellwether in 2020 At indoor rally, Pence says election runs through Wisconsin Juan Williams: Breaking down the debates MORE (R-Wis.) are working on an updated version of the legislation, which could be ready by the end of the month.

Still, Wyden said last week that no deal is imminent and there is still work left to be done.

Fast-track gives Congress an up-or-down vote on an trade deals that reach Capitol Hill.