House lawmakers urge Obama to forgo lame-duck TPP vote

Six House Republicans are calling on President Obama to forgo a congressional vote on a Pacific Rim trade deal before he leaves office.

Michigan Reps. Candice Miller and Dave Trott spearheaded a letter this week to the president arguing that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has raised too many concerns for Congress to take a vote after the November election.

{mosads}“A lame-duck Congress should not vote on an agreement of this consequence, it would be an end-run around the American people immediately following an election,” the House members wrote.

“We urge you not to send TPP implementing legislation to Congress in 2016,” they said.

Bill Shuster (Pa.), Tim Murphy (Pa.), Ed Whitfield (Ky.) and Ted Yoho (Fla.) also signed on to the letter.

All six voted for trade promotion authority last summer that would fast-track the TPP or any other trade deal through Congress without amendments.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman as well as the president have said while they want to pass TPP as soon as possible they wouldn’t force an implementing bill to Capitol Hill if the deal is lacking support.

However, the president said this week he is confident that Congress can pass the TPP in the lame-duck session, even with the chances of passage looking slim with anti-trade rhetoric emanating out of the Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns.  

“Hopefully, after the election is over and the dust settles, there will be more attention to the actual facts behind the deal and it won’t just be a political symbol or a political football,” Obama said Tuesday during a joint press conference with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, whose nation is one of the 12 members of the deal.

But Miller, who is retiring, said that “a deal of such magnitude and consequence should be debated and approved by the new administration and Congress, not outgoing members such as myself.”

“Americans deserve an opportunity to hold our president and their elected representatives in Congress accountable, and forcing this bad deal through a lame duck would deny them that opportunity,” Miller said.

The lawmakers argue that the deal needs to be reworked, especially on the currency manipulation front, to better protect U.S. workers. 

“We believe a great deal more work is needed in renegotiations to ensure the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) works for American workers — and not just those of our trading partners,” they wrote.

That is the same message being pushed by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump, who each oppose the deal and have vowed at the very least to significantly overhaul the agreement. 

But the countries in the deal have said that there is no possibility of renegotiating the agreement.

In their letter, the lawmakers specifically expressed concern about a what they call a lack of enforceable rules to stop currency manipulation in the TPP deal. 

“America is already losing millions of jobs to the TPP’s current members — much of that driven by those countries’ currency manipulation,” the lawmakers wrote to the president.

During the past few years, a majority of lawmakers in both chambers have urged the administration to tackle the issue of currency manipulation in trade agreements.

But Obama and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said repeatedly during the negotiating process that adding in currency provisions into the TPP would be complicated and would probably scuttle the deal.

Instead, the 12 nations drew up a side agreement that requires more information from countries of concern such as Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore.

But critics argue the deal doesn’t force violating nations to change policies and it provides no consequences for countries that deliberately lower the value of their currency to gain an international trade advantage.

“If this administration was serious about protecting U.S. manufacturing, then it would have insisted that the Trans-Pacific Partnership have strong currency manipulation protections, which it doesn’t,” Miller said.

The lawmakers argue, too, that the U.S. International Trade Commission’s May report on TPP “ignored the devastating potential impact that foreign currency manipulation could have on American jobs.”

“Even using this and other optimistic assumptions, the report estimated only anemic growth and meager job creation across all sectors of our economy, while projecting American manufacturing would shrink,” they wrote. 

Miller worked for inclusion of currency manipulation provisions in a customs enforcement bill that became law earlier this year.

But TPP supporters like the Peterson Institute, which in the past has rallied lawmakers, unions and automakers around a currency manipulation strategy, said the customs language combined with the TPP’s side deal meets the objectives set out in the trade promotion authority law and should strengthen the Treasury Department’s hand in stopping the practice.

“Once America has given up the leverage of gaining full access to its consumer markets, the possibility of prohibiting currency manipulation — or reaching equitable agreements in many other areas — will be lost forever,” the lawmakers wrote. 

Tags Candice Miller Donald Trump Ed Whitfield Fast track Hillary Clinton Jack Lew lame-duck session Michael Froman President Obama Ted Yoho Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) U.S. International Trade Commission

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