WASHINGTON — Today, Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) delivered the following opening statement during the Ways and Means hearing on the U.S. trade policy agenda with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.
“I want to start by thanking Ambassador Froman. You and your team are doing very important work, and this committee is going to do all we can to make it a success.
“Expanding American trade is going to be one of our top priorities this year. And the reason why is pretty simple. Ninety-five percent of the world’s customers live outside the United States. I can think of few better ways to grow our economy than to grow our customer base. I believe Americans can compete with anybody, if given a fair chance. That’s why we have to break down barriers to our exports by completing trade agreements.
“Right now, there are several trade deals in the works—all of them very promising. We’re negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership with our friends in Asia, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with our friends in Europe, the Trade in Services Agreement with countries around the world, and several agreements through the World Trade Organization.
“And if done well, all of them would help create jobs and expand opportunity. And all of them would help shape the kind of economy we leave for our kids.
“The fact is, if we don’t write the rules of the global economy, other countries will. They already are. Other countries, like China, are putting in place new trade agreements among themselves. So it’s a simple as this: If we’re not moving forward, we’re falling behind.
“And look at the record. If you add up all the countries that don’t have agreements with us, we run a manufacturing trade deficit. And if you add up all the countries that do have agreements with us, we run a surplus.
“So I think it’s pretty clear: Trade—and trade agreements—are good for our country. We need more of both. And the first thing we need to do to get there is pass trade promotion authority.
“Here’s the issue: When the United States sits down at the negotiating table, everybody at that table has to trust us. They have to know the deal the administration wants is the deal Congress wants—because if our trading partners don’t trust the administration—if they think it will make commitments that Congress will undo later—they won’t make concessions. Why run the risk for no reason?
“On the other hand, once our trading partners know we’re trustworthy—once they can see we’re negotiating in good faith—they’ll be more willing to make concessions. That’s why we have to pass this bill before negotiations are complete. To get the best deal possible, we have to be in the best position possible. We can’t be negotiating with ourselves. We have to maintain a united front.
“Now, I’m not saying to maximize our leverage we have to maximize the administration’s power. I’d no sooner trust this administration with more power than I’d trust the Patriots with the footballs at Lambeau. What I’m saying is this bill would maximize Congress’s power.
“Let me explain. Nothing stops a president from negotiating a deal without instructions from Congress. So, if we waited till after the negotiations are done to make our views known—if we simply reacted to what the administration put in front of us—we might scuttle the whole deal. That means we have to get involved before the deal is done, not after it’s finished. We have to be proactive, not reactive.
“That’s what TPA does. We call this process ‘trade promotion authority.’ But I think of it more as a contract. We say to the administration, if you want this up-or-down vote, you have to meet three requirements: Number one, you have to listen to us. Number two, you have to talk to us. And number three, you have to remember: we get the final say.
“First, TPA lays out all our negotiating objectives for our trade deals. In short, we tell the administration what targets to hit. It’s got to do things like eliminate barriers to our exports, protect our intellectual property, and eliminate unnecessary regulatory barriers in other countries.
“Second, TPA requires the administration to consult with Congress. Any member can meet with our trade representative’s office at any time. Any member can read the text. Any member can attend the negotiations. It’s like a TPA hotline.
“And third, just to avoid any confusion, we put it right in the bill text: Congress gets the final say. If a trade deal requires any changes in our laws, Congress must approve them. And if the administration violates any of these requirements, we can say, ‘No deal.‘ If it doesn’t cooperate, it doesn’t get the up-or-down vote.
“We simply can’t get the best deals without TPA, and that’s why we’ve got to pass it as soon as possible.
“So TPA is front and center, but there are several other measures we must take to help the economy.
“We need to reauthorize the Generalized System of Preferences, which expired last year. And I am committed to ensuring a seamless and timely renewal of African Growth and Opportunity Act as soon as possible.
“Both of these programs would let developing countries send their products to our shores duty-free. Stronger trade ties among our countries would lift up their economies and our own.
“The Miscellaneous Tariff Bill, meanwhile, would eliminate duties on hundreds of products that we don’t even make in our country—and that our manufacturers need to build their own products. This is just common sense. And we need to find a way forward.
“Finally, Congressman Brady has done solid work on the Customs Trade Facilitation and Enforcement Act. The bill would help streamline our customs procedures and enforce our trade laws. And Congressman Boustany has tackled the problem of trade remedy evasion in a creative and effective way. We’ve got to get this legislation across the finish line.
“So, we’ve got a pretty ambitious agenda in front of us. But that’s because this area is full of potential. So I look forward to learning more from the ambassador’s testimony and to working with my colleagues to get this done. Thank you.“