House Dems attack trade deal on eve of Japan PM’s address

House Democrats are seizing on the lack of strong currency manipulation provisions in a pending trade deal to attack the “fast-track” legislation that is moving through Congress.

Five Democrats pushed back against the Obama administration’s arguments that adding currency provisions to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would derail the deal and potentially interfere with U.S. monetary policy decisions.

{mosads}Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), a vocal opponent of trade promotion authority legislation, also known as fast-track, said the arguments made by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew against adding currency rules to the trade pact don’t “hold water.”

“If that is really the case, I say ‘so be it,’ ” DeLauro told reporters on a conference call. “We should be willing to walk away on this issue alone.”

The complaints came a day ahead of a scheduled address to Congress by Shinzo Abe, the prime minster of Japan — a country that many congressional lawmakers accuse of undervaluing the yen in an effort to boost exports.

“No doubt in Prime Minister Abe’s speech we will year a strong plea for Congress to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” DeLauro said.

“What we will not hear is anything about Japan’s own history of anti-free trade policy,” she said.

Abe has been trying for the past couple of years to fire up Japan’s economy — the third largest in the world — and shake it loose from years of persistent economic stagnation.

He has put the 12-nation TPP at the center of achieving that goal.

DeLauro argued that global currency manipulation has led to the loss of between 1 million and 5 million U.S. jobs and that none of the possible avenues — fast-track, the TPP or broader efforts by the international community — are doing enough to stop it.

“Our hard working families have suffered enough and they will suffer a lot more if we do not deal with currency manipulation,” DeLauro said.

“We can’t sacrifice thousands or millions of American jobs just to avoid offending foreign countries that want to continue the abuses that destroy those same jobs.”

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, said he is concerned that TPP’s “failure to deal with currency manipulation and Japan’s barriers to agriculture and automobiles will hurt American workers.”

“I hope that we can explore other ways to deepen the US-Japan relationship rather than by negotiating a trade agreement that will increase America’s trade deficit and depress American wages,” he said.

DeLauro acknowledged that currency manipulation is not as prevalent now as it has been in previous years.

Most economists do not think Japan is manipulating its currency, even though she argued that the yen is still depressed in value.

“If the TPP doesn’t included enforceable currency provisions that is all the more reason to deny it fast-track now,” she said. “And if and when the agreement comes to the floor, to vote it down.”

With trade legislation beginning to move in Congress — Senate and House committees scaled their first hurdles last week in approving fast-track legislation — there are bipartisan calls for the  currency provisions to be adopted.

DeLauro said that it makes sense to add enforceable rules now while the issue is “red hot.”

But the Obama administration has said currency manipulation won’t be included in any trade deals.

Lew and 10 other former Treasury secretaries last week sent letters to congressional leaders detailing their opposition to injecting currency manipulation provisions in trade agreements.

But Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), another fast-track opponent, said that Congress can’t move forward on any deal that doesn’t effectively address the “greatest barrier to U.S. manufactured goods penetrating the Japanese market,” which he said is currency manipulation.

The argument further underscores the sharpening rhetoric and division between the White House and congressional Democrats, who are opposed to passing fast-track legislation that would smooth passage of the TPP deal.

Congressional passage of fast-track is expected to serve as a catalyst to complete the TPP negotiations, which are nearing a conclusion.

At the White House on Tuesday, President Obama and Abe said that they are confident the two nations can reach a bilateral deal that would accelerate the negotiations.

Obama said that he and Abe “will now work together to lead our TPP partners to swift and successful conclusions of the broader negotiations.”

Final votes on fast-track in the House and Senate should happen sometime next month.

“Because I always believe that good policy ends up being good politics, I’m confident we’re going to end up getting the votes in Congress,” Obama said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters on Tuesday that he expects fast-track will reach the floor “very soon. very soon.”

“When we look back on this Congress, with the possible exception of the Iran nuclear issue, putting America back in the trade business could be the biggest accomplishment of this Congress,” he said.

Abe echoed the president’s comments.

“Japan and the United States — or with President Barack Obama and myself — we want to exert leadership to bring about an early conclusion of the TPP,” he said.

“We will continue to cooperate to lead the TPP talks through its last phase.”

Tags Barack Obama Jack Lew Mitch McConnell

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