Advocating a level playing field for American workers in the global economy, U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) Wednesday joined several House colleagues in writing to the U.S. Trade Representative to press for more transparency and Congressional consultation in the negotiations currently underway of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement.
"We are troubled that there may be needless secrecy and over-classification of documents," the group of House members wrote in their letter. "We urge you and your staff to engage in broader and deeper consultations with members of the full range of committees of Congress whose jurisdiction touches on the wide-ranging issues involved, and to ensure there is ample opportunity for Congress to have input on critical policies that will have broad ramifications for years to come."
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed regional free trade agreement (FTA) currently under negotiation between Australia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, New Zealand, Singapore, Chile, and Peru, and may potentially include the nations of Japan, Mexico, and Canada. The agreement is unprecedented in its scope due to the number of countries involved, covering issues from immigration, to health and workplace safety, to energy and agriculture.
"I am pressing to ensure greater transparency and public participation in how the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement is negotiated, so that American workers know upfront what this agreement means for their economic livelihoods and job security. Many Administrations -- both Republican and Democratic -- are quick to make grand promises about these so-called free trade agreements, and not until after the fact do we know their tragic costs -- factories shutting down, jobs moving overseas, unsustainable trade imbalances, and lower wages and benefits," said Rahall.
As a member of the Congressional Buy American Caucus, Rahall has been pushing to protect existing "Buy American" procurement policies in the TPP agreement. Last month, he wrote to President Obama urging that "Buy American" provisions not be waived as part of TPP negotiations, arguing that such provisions ensure that billions in U.S. government expenditures are recycled into our economy to create jobs and strengthen our manufacturing sector. Rahall also has been a vocal advocate in supporting and cosponsoring legislation to repeal tax breaks for American companies that send jobs overseas.
"By investing in products that are "Made in America,' we are investing in our American workers -- in their education, their training, and their skills and talents -- so that they can compete and win in a global economy. Certainly, tax breaks and trade deals that facilitate and encourage the outsourcing of American jobs -- whatever the economic theories may espouse -- hurt working, middle-class families. That's something our trade negotiators must not forget and I aim to do all that I can to ensure they do not forget," said Rahall.
The 13th Round of TPP negotiation is scheduled for next month and the nations involved have announced their intention to conclude the trade agreement this year.