Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 2832, the bill which renews the Generalized System of Preferences program and also contains the Trade Adjustment Extension Act of 2011. This bill is the cornerstone of a carefully crafted bipartisan, bicameral agreement that prompted the President to send the three trade agreements to Congress last Monday and, in turn, has allowed us to move forward the long-stalled trade agenda.
This bill renews GSP, the largest U.S trade preference program, which was already passed by the House last month. Not only does this legislation allow duty-free access for specific products from certain developing countries into the U.S. market, it makes U.S. manufacturing more competitive by lowering the cost of inputs. The Coalition for GSP has estimated that over 82,000 U.S. jobs are directly or indirectly associated with this program. This legislation renews the program through July 31, 2013, and applies it retroactively for eligible products imported after the program’s expiration on December 31, 2010. This program is fully offset with spending cuts.
This bill also contains a reauthorization of Trade Adjustment Assistance, better known as TAA. Earlier this summer, the White House sprung upon us that it would not send the three free trade agreements to Congress if there was no “deal” on TAA. I took this demand to heart and made a decision that I had to do everything in my power to reach agreement on a streamlined, cost-effective, and reduced TAA program to ensure that all three job-creating trade agreements could move forward. I worked with Chairman Baucus and the White House to forge a bipartisan agreement on TAA to do just that.
The core principles of our conference – ensuring smaller government and cutting spending – were the foundation of my negotiating stance throughout the TAA talks. As a result, contrary to initial White House demands that we reauthorize the 2009 TAA law that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, cost more than $700 million per year for five years, we forced the Administration to accept significant cuts to the program. The cost of the final TAA agreement is approximately one-half that amount, according to CBO. The deal costs roughly $900 million total for a three-year program and is fully offset with spending cuts, including deep cuts below the baseline to the program itself. Moreover, TAA reverts to 2002 levels or below for 2014, and the entire program completely ends after 2014.
In order to achieve these savings, we streamlined and scaled back TAA as a whole. I’ll note some of the highlights. We reduced the number of weeks of income support under the TAA for Workers program from 156 in the 2009 law down to 117 weeks, with up to an additional 13 weeks available only if the applicant has met stringent standards and has “substantially met the performance benchmarks” of his or her training program.
I also want to note here for clarity that TAA benefits run concurrently with unemployment benefits – in other words, there is no double-dipping.
We slashed the health care subsidy from 80 percent down to 72.5 percent — and completely repeal it after 2013.
We denied TAA eligibility for public sector workers.
We eliminated half of the allowable justifications for the program’s training waivers to ensure that only those who are in training will be eligible for TAA benefits, with only limited exceptions.
We consolidated and reduced by $110 million all non-income support expenditures of the program.
We slashed funding for TAA for Firms back to 2002 law levels, made TAA for Farmers a discretionary program, and eliminated most of the TAA for Communities program authorized at $190 million in the 2009 law.
We also added in enhanced performance measures and accountability into all of the TAA programs.
On top of all that, we fully offset the program with spending cuts.
Overall, we’ve slashed and streamlined TAA significantly and are today moving forward the most significant trade deals this country has seen in over fifteen years. For those who are concerned about TAA, let me urge you to recognize that this extension of a scaled-back TAA is a small price to pay for the extraordinary promise these three trade agreements hold for our economy. I encourage my colleagues to consider the four votes for the three trade agreements and the GSP/TAA bill as a comprehensive package and a model of bipartisanship for creating jobs and enhancing economic growth in this country. Therefore, I urge all of my colleagues to support this legislation.