Fast-Track Trade Measure Won’t Pass Congress, DeLauro Says

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) expresses her frustration at current wage disparity during a press conference to urge Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, on Capitol Hill April 1, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images

A U.S. House Democrat who opposes President Barack Obama’s push for a process allowing for speedy approval of trade agreements predicted the proposal will fail in Congress, saying she wants lawmakers to have a stronger role.

“We’ve seen a loss of jobs and a depression of wages” resulting from prior trade agreements, said Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut during a meeting with Bloomberg News editors and reporters Friday in New York. “Those issues affect not just Democrats, but the nation broadly.”

DeLauro said “an overwhelming” number of House Democrats would oppose Obama’s request for fast-track authority, which would limit Congress to an up-or-down vote on trade agreements with no amendments. She said she didn’t know how many House Republicans might support the proposal, and said she is encouraging members of both parties to oppose it.

“I believe it will not pass,” DeLauro said.

Congress last granted the president fast-track authority in 2002, and it expired in 2007. Renewing it is a priority for Obama. He is backed by a number of Republicans in a rare instance of the president gaining stronger support from that party than from his fellow Democrats.

The Obama administration’s negotiations with 11 governments in the Pacific region would be the first submitted under fast-track authority if Congress decided to grant it. The president is also working on a longer-term trade agreement with the 28-nation European Union.

Environmental Regulations

DeLauro and other Democratic lawmakers who oppose fast-track authority say it would let a president act without congressional input when negotiating deals that they say would kill jobs and threaten food safety and environmental regulations.

The fast-track process was used during President Bill Clinton’s administration in 1993 to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement, which many Democrats have criticized as harmful to U.S. workers.

DeLauro said she and others might support a process she called “replacement trade authority.” It would let Congress help select “appropriate trade partners” on such matters as environmental and public health standards as well as market access for U.S. exporters, she said.

DeLauro said another part of the replacement process would require the final text of an agreement to be released publicly to show that negotiating objectives sought by Congress have been met before the negotiation is concluded.

Currency Manipulation

She also said 230 House Republicans and Democrats have signed a letter saying they would insist that trade agreements include language to combat currency manipulation.

Also on Friday, the House Ways and Means Committee led by Republican Paul Ryan of Wisconsin issued a statement outlining earlier presidents’ uses of fast-track authority, also known as trade promotion authority.

“Every president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has had some mechanism like trade promotion authority (TPA) to help advance America’s trade agenda,” according to the statement. “Otherwise, it’s difficult to complete agreements and get the best deals from our trading partners.”

President Ronald Reagan “used it to sign trade agreements with Israel and Canada and launch the Uruguay Round of negotiations, which created the World Trade Organization,” according to the statement.

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