WASHINGTON —This morning, shortly before the House vote on trade promotion authority (TPA) legislation, House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) went on CNBC’s Squawk Box to make one final push for this crucial bill. With many in the country rightly concerned about the president’s ability to negotiate a fair deal for America, Ryan stressed the importance of getting TPA enacted as soon as possible so that Congress can take control of the negotiating process, and so the public can be able to see what’s actually in these new trade agreements. Excerpts from his answers follow:
Will the Democrats support their president?
“We have the votes for TPA. It’s really a question of whether or not the Democrats are going to support their president, the leader of their party, or not. That is going to be answered today, and I don’t know the answer to that.”
TPA is a process
“TPA, which is what we’re voting on today—which, by the way, we do have the votes for TPA—is a process under which we consider trade agreements. And this process brings more transparency and more accountability to how we consider trade agreements, and it gives Congress more control over the outcome of these trade agreements. When we reach a trade agreement, when a trade agreement is reached between nations, we make it public. There’s no requirement for that without TPA. And then it’s public for 60 days so everybody can see what’s in it. And then Congress begins to consider it—that’s another 30 days. So we’re not voting on a trade agreement today. We’re voting on a process under which we consider trade agreements, to give Congress more control and the country more transparency.”
3.2 billion people. That’s a lot of customers.
“We have the votes for the trade promotion authority. The question today is whether or not the Democrats are going to deliver their votes for something called trade adjustment assistance, which is a necessary component and has been, for many years, of trade promotion authority. That’s really the question before us today. But we do have the votes for TPA. You know why? Because we need trade. We need trade agreements. We need to write the rules of the global economy. We need to open markets for America’s producers so that we can have more jobs. And if we just walk away from the field, we are ceding the field to the rest of the world—to China, to Europe, to whomever else, who will be able to write the rules of the global economy, get those markets, and we won’t. There’s going to be 3.2 billion people in the middle class in Asia in 15 years. That’s a lot of customers. We ought to be able to sell to them. We ought to be able to sell to them on a level playing field. And that’s what we’re trying to do here today.”
With TPA, the public can see an agreement
“We’re not giving the President any new authority—we’re not giving him any authority. Actually, we’re taking authority away from him by saying, ‘If you’re going to do a trade agreement, here’s how you have to do it. This is Congress’s way of doing it, and we need to see it.’ Right now, it’s whatever the administration wants to let us see with these negotiations. We demand to be able to see it at any time. We also can participate in and travel to the negotiations if we want to, under TPA. And the country sees a trade agreement as soon as a trade agreement is reached—it is made public. And we don’t fast track it to Congress before anyone can know what’s in it. It will be at least 90 days from when an agreement is reached before Congress even considers it. That’s with TPA. If you don’t have trade promotion authority, the President can do what he wants. Look at what he’s doing with Iran. That’s not a trade agreement, but it’s a good example of [how] he can go do whatever he wants, negotiate whatever he wants, we have no idea what he is negotiating, and he’s not even coming to Congress before he agrees to it for a vote.”
Helping manufacturers grow and create jobs
“One in five jobs is tied to trade. Those jobs typically pay more. I was at the Case New Holland tractor factory in Racine two weeks ago, a UAW factory. Thirty-three percent of the tractors rolling off that line have to be exported for that factory to be fully employed, for those lines to keep running. So we need to make things here and sell them overseas. And, by the way, getting trade agreements removes those barriers so we can make things here in Wisconsin and send them overseas. Ninety-five percent of the world’s consumers—they don’t live in America, they live in other countries. And we need to get those markets open.”
Writing the rules of the global economy
“The rules of the 21st century global economy, they’re being written right now. There’s no question about that. The question is who’s going to write the rules? Are we going to write the rules, with our allies, so that we can protect our intellectual properties, so we can have fairness, so that we can have a level playing field? Or are other countries going to write the rules, like China and the rest? That’s really the question that’s being answered right now. And so we want more jobs with higher wages, and we know that trade leads to that. And we want to be able to make things in America and send those things overseas. Without trade agreements, big multinational corporations just plop a factory in another country in order to sell into that country, to get around the trade barriers. Let’s remove those trade barriers so that we can keep those factories here in America.”