WASHINGTON — Today, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) delivered the following floor statement in support of H.R. 2146, the Trade Priorities and Accountability Act.
“Welcome back, everyone. I have to admit, I’m disappointed that we have to be here today. Last week a bipartisan majority stepped up to pass trade promotion authority. That vote showed that Republicans and Democrats can still come together to do what is right for the country. It was a vote that I’m very proud of.
“Unfortunately, many of our friends on the other side of the aisle would not stand with their president, and voted to sacrifice a program they support—a program that they asked for—in order to block our path.
“It was disappointing, but we’re not going to be discouraged. Enacting trade promotion authority is critical for our economy and for our national security, and so we’re going to get it done here today.
“Why do we need TPA? Because we need more trade. Ninety-five percent of the world’s consumers don’t live in America. They live in other countries. And if we want to make more things here and sell them over there, we need to tear down trade barriers that make American goods and services more expensive.
“We know that trade is good for our economy. One in five American jobs are tied to trade, and they pay, on average, 18 percent more.
“We also need more trade to bolster our foreign policy and national security. Stronger economic ties lead to stronger security ties. More market share means more influence. That’s why so many national security voices… former military leaders… former secretaries of state have all called on Congress to pass TPA. They understand what is at stake: no less than America’s credibility.
“Because the rules of the global economy are being written right now. The question is who is going to write them. Will it be the United States and our allies? Or will it be other nations that don’t share our values or our commitment to free enterprise and the rule of law.
“Our friends in Asia and Europe are getting ready to place their bets. They want to sign up for American-style free enterprise. But they need to know that the United States is going to stand strong as a reliable trading partner before they do. That’s what TPA is all about.
“So, how does it work? We’ve heard all kinds of misinformation spread by free trade opponents. Crazy stuff, really. Let me, one more time, explain what TPA is—and what it isn’t.
“TPA is a process, it’s not an agreement. It’s a process that gives us the best shot at getting good trade agreements. It’s a process—dating back decades—that Congress has used to insert itself into trade negotiations and provide accountability to the president.
“And this TPA has more accountability and transparency than ever before. It lays out 150 guidelines that the administration must follow when negotiating a trade deal. These are our priorities, and if the president wants an agreement to pass, he must address them.
“This TPA also requires the administration to consult with Congress during the negotiations: give us access to the text, provide timely briefings, even allow members to attend negotiating rounds as accredited advisors.
“And, finally, and perhaps most important: this TPA ensures that the American people can read an agreement long before anyone is asked to vote on it. Sixty days. An agreement must be public and posted online for 60 days before it can even be sent to Congress. This turns fast-track into slow-track.
“Mr. Speaker, it’s transparency; it’s effective oversight; and it’s accountability. Because if the president doesn’t meet these requirements, or doesn’t follow the negotiating objectives, we can turn off TPA for that agreement. We can cancel the vote, amend the agreement, to or stop it entirely. We, Congress, always have the final say, and no agreement takes effect unless we vote to allow it.
“This process, TPA, creates a pact between Congress and the administration that allows our trading partners to know that we speak with one voice. It allows them to make their best offers, knowing that as long as the administration follows TPA, Congress won’t try to re-write an agreement later. It gives America credibility. And we need it right now.
“Make no mistake, the world is watching us. The foreign policy failures of the last few years, not to mention the stunt pulled here last week, have capitals around the world wondering if America still has it. They want to know if we’re still willing to engage, willing to lead, or whether we’re in a nation in retreat and decline.
“Well, we’re here again today to answer that question, Mr. Speaker. America doesn’t retreat. America leads. And that’s why I urge my colleagues to vote to vote yes for TPA. Let’s get it done.”