Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL), Republican Leader of the Subcommittee on Trade for the House Committee on Ways and Means, kicked off Thursday’s hearing on Trade Adjustment Assistance making several major points:
- Rep. Buchanan expressed disappointment that Congress allowed key programs to lapse at the end of last year. “Whereas TAA helps address problems when workers lose their jobs, GSP and the MTB actually create jobs—which is what American workers really want,” and why the Committee must move quickly to extend these programs.
- Rep. Buchanan noted the advantage of focusing on more consolidation of workforce development programs, greater customer service, and development of useful skills, as well as promoting economic growth overall. “Republicans support making TAA benefits and administration more consistent with other programs.”
- Finally, Rep. Buchanan called for pushing forward with new agreements in order to serve American workers. “The longer we delay negotiations with new partners and continuing negotiations with the UK, Japan, and Kenya, the more we fall behind other countries and surrender global influence to bad actors like China.”
The following are his remarks as prepared.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I look forward to working collaboratively with you and our colleagues to build upon the bipartisan consensus that was achieved in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement and to create a more pro-jobs, pro-worker trade policy.
I also look forward to working with the new administration as it develops its trade policy priorities. I trust that this Committee will provide vigorous oversight of the Biden Administration, just as we have for prior administrations. In my view, that should include ample opportunities for consultations and public hearings with administration officials before decisions are made, given the lead role Congress plays in setting the trade agenda.
Let’s now turn towards the matter at hand today. Thank you for holding this important hearing on the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which is set to expire in just a few months. This is an excellent opportunity to look at the strengths and weaknesses of TAA and highlight areas in which the program can be improved and made fairer and more accountable.
But I cannot help but wish that we were providing this same opportunity for two other important trade programs— GSP and the MTB—that were allowed to expire at the end of last year due to inaction by this Committee. We must move quickly to extend these programs. TAA helps address problems when workers lose their jobs, but GSP and the MTB actually create jobs—which is what American workers really want. Further delay will cost more jobs and hurt the very people we are trying to help. I hope we can work together on this quickly. For GSP, let’s restore the program benefits for our workers and companies that desperately need them now while we complete our work in considering possible updates to the program.
I also hope there is room for working together on Trade Adjustment Assistance. There is bipartisan agreement that trade and globalization have displaced workers in certain industries. In my view, automation and technological advances have had a similar, and perhaps more significant, impact. But regardless, getting dislocated workers back on their feet and into the workplace where they can thrive is a bipartisan priority—and that applies to all dislocated workers, not just those who have been displaced by trade.
That is why Republicans support making TAA benefits and administration more consistent with other programs. Our overall workforce development system would be far more effective if it was consolidated and able to provide more streamlined services to workers down at the local level. And it would be more equitable to workers who have lost their job, at no fault of their own, for reasons not related to trade. I don’t see a good reason why benefits for different types of job losses are inconsistent—it is unfair.
We need to introduce more accountability into the TAA program by increasing the focus on case management to help workers navigate the program more successfully. When I was in business, the most important part of my success was customer service. And TAA must provide better customer service to aid dislocated workers and make TAA more effective.
Another failing of TAA is that training can be abstract and focused on obtaining a degree or credential, rather than on employer-based training that develops skills that employers need in an efficient timeframe. TAA should be the means to develop useful skills.
And finally, we cannot lose sight of the need for a robust and dynamic economy to help get people back to work. Workers will stay on the sidelines if we are not creating jobs. Republicans have put forth a pro-growth agenda that does just that.
New trade agreements are a key aspect of this agenda and must be a priority—the longer we delay negotiations with new partners and continuing negotiations with the UK, Japan, and Kenya, the more we fall behind other countries and surrender global influence to bad actors like China. We must lead with an aggressive trade policy that opens markets for American exporters and creates high-paying jobs here at home.
Let’s get Americans back to work.
Thank you again, Mr. Chairman, for calling this hearing, and thank you to the witnesses for taking the time to be here before us today.