Levin: The Focus Right Now Must be on TPP, not TPA

Dec 5, 2014

WASHINGTON – Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI) met with reporters today to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the need to continue to focus on the continuing negotiations of that agreement instead of focusing on Trade Promotion Authority. Segments of his remarks are transcribed below:

A different kind of trade agreement

“It reinforced in Australia for me how TPP represents both a major opportunity and a major set of challenges. We all know that it’s about 40% of the world’s GDP. And interestingly, it’s not only a large number of nations, but nations that we haven’t negotiated trade agreements with before. This is really the largest multilateral negotiation that might succeed since the Uruguay round. And there are new issues that have never been negotiated. And I think we forget in terms of a large multilateral agreement, there has not been inclusion of labor, of environmental issues, of state owned enterprises. The medicine issue has been negotiated in bilateral FTAs, but it hasn’t been done on this major of a level.

There remain major outstanding issues in TPP

A list of the vital remaining issues is linked to here.

Congress must maintain its leverage

“My feeling is this – when you look at this list of outstanding issues, it’s so critical that Congress maintain its leverage and its resolution. … We used that leverage – some of us – when it related to China PNTR. We essentially said to the Administration in its negotiation of the accession agreement that there had to be changes made in the China PNTR. And without going into a lot of detail, what resulted was a bipartisan amendment. And then we told the Administration they had to go back and get a better deal with China. And so we used our leverage. And I’d mentioned May 10th, which is a vivid example of Congress using its leverage. And a few of us essentially ended up negotiating with the Peruvian government the Peru FTA and its inclusion of what was in May 10th.  And one other example of the importance of Congressional leverage I’ll mention is Korea. It was originally negotiated, but it was unsatisfactory in terms of the automotive sector. So what really happened was that several of us used the leverage that Congress had to stimulate the revision of the Korea FTA to include some major provisions regarding automotive. And it was a collaborative effort between a few of us in Congress and American industry and the labor movement.

Focus must be on TPP, not TPA

“At this critical juncture, with all of these outstanding issues, the focus has to be right now on the substance of TPP and not passing a TPA. Because if you go down the list of these issues, there’s no way for TPA to spell out what Congress thinks needs to be contained in an effective TPP. So I really think that the key here has to be the focus on TPP and not trying to move on TPA now – I think it puts the cart before the horse. If you put the focus on TPA when you have so many outstanding issues, essentially what it does is force or stimulate members to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to TPP before so many of the outstanding issues have been resolved. So essentially I think it makes it more difficult, not less difficult, to get an effective TPP. So I strongly feel coming back from Australia, meeting with negotiators from so many countries, seeing how many outstanding issues there are, talking to USTR, we really need to now – this Congress – focus on TPP and set up some formal structures for us to be active partners in the resolution of this issue. Because otherwise TPA becomes a proxy for TPP, and that’s a serious mistake. I’ve worked for decades to try to shape trade agreements to be able to support them. And I think that’s now the role of Congress, to be actively shaping the resolution of these outstanding issues.

“The main way to signal other countries that there will be support of members of Congress is to deeply involve members of Congress in the discussion and the resolution of those issues. … The best assurance that other countries can have that what is negotiated can succeed is the active participation of Congress in the discussion and the resolution of these issues. Moving TPA without a clear role for Congress and a clear understanding of these issues might well mean that TPA will fail. Because you’re asking members to essentially give away their major leverage on a major historic trade agreement while there remains so many outstanding issues. And I think there’s going to be major resistance to Congress doing that when TPP is at this stage of negotiations. … I think bringing up TPA before there is major Congressional involvement in the resolution of these outstanding issues would be a donnybrook in terms of TPA. I think it would essentially say that the vote on TPA is a proxy for your vote on TPP. And I think it would dramatically polarize the approach of this Congress on trade. And therefore it’s a serious mistake to bring up TPA before there is much more effective involvement of Congress in the discussion of and the proposed resolution of these issues.

A fuller role for Congress

“I want there to be set up some structure so that there is regular consultation with the Committees of jurisdiction as the negotiations ensue. So that there is the full participation of this Congress in the discussion and the resolution of these issues. … Full discussion of what is in the documents, and of what is being proposed by the Administration, and what are the positions of other countries, and what are the likely bottom lines of this Administration. What you have is considerable consultation without adequate meaningful involvement.

Supporting an effective TPP

“I’m in favor of a TPP that should be supported by a broad range within the Democratic party as well as the Republican party. I’m in favor of a TPP that addresses these issues. I’m in favor of a TPP that at long last breaks Japan’s exclusion of American industrial products. I’m in favor of a TPP that opens up the Japanese market. I’m in favor of a TPP that addresses this difficult investor-state issue. And I don’t like it that the investor-state issue becomes essentially a technique of people – an opportunity for people to say ‘down with TPP, period.’ I’m in favor of addressing the Vietnam labor issue – it’s a difficult issue. We’ve never negotiated a trade agreement with a non-market economy with a non-free labor market. It isn’t an easy issue to resolve.

Fuller transparency

“At this point, can I tell you what is the Administration’s position on tobacco? The answer is no. Can I tell you where they are on agriculture? No. On investor-state they tell me that the issue is closed – that’s what was said at Australia. That’s a mistake. The issue of investor-state is a live issue, and it has to be considered and it has to be worked on. Environment, we’ve seen the text. What they did was to shift from the May 10th agreement, and we don’t know where they’re going. In terms of medicines, we worked hard in the May 10th agreement in terms of data exclusivity. Do I know where this Administration is going? The answer is, a number of proposals were put forth in Australia as to when the data exclusivity provisions for non-developing countries – when that would end. And there’s a major disagreement in terms of whether you do it on a timeline or whether you do it in terms of economic structure and development within a country. Currency has not been discussed. You had a majority of members in the house and Senate, Republicans and Democrats, saying that currency should be considered as part of this agreement. You cannot layout in a TPA what the final treatment of currency should be.

“In terms of all we’ve worked for – those are major issues. I want them resolved, and I want this Congress to have a very major role – not to make the final decision, not to be the negotiator, but to have a major role in the resolution of those issues.”