National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson urged members of Congress to oppose trade promotion authority – also known as fast track – noting that trade agreements should be fair to all parties involved, and the process should be transparent.
“Trade promotion authority (“fast track”) would remove an important constitutional check on the president’s power to negotiate trade agreements,” noted Johnson in a letter sent to all members of Congress today. “Trade agreements must be fair for all parties involved and should therefore be subjected to review by the Congress – not conducted secretly.”
Johnson reminded members of Congress that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was negotiated behind closed doors with little input from the public or Congress. “Congress should have full opportunity to review the provisions of a trade agreement, consistent with the authority and power endowed by the U.S. Constitution,” he said. “The lack of transparency in negotiating TPP is particularly egregious, considering its expansive scope.”
Johnson pointed out that past trade agreements have served to increase, not decrease, the trade deficit. “For 30 years and after several free trade agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement and the U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement, the U.S. has grown a significant trade deficit,” he said.
Last year, the trade deficit increased to $505 billion, representing nearly 3 percent of GDP and slowing growth, Johnson noted. He said that while the positive trade balance of U.S. agriculture trade is good news, “it is massively overshadowed by the alarming overall U.S. trade deficit.”
Johnson pointed out that a major factor impacting the trade deficit is currency manipulation. “Several countries involved in the TPP negotiations are known currency manipulators including Malaysia, Singapore, and Japan,” he said. “According to recent reports, the U.S.-Japan trade deficit reached nearly $80 billion in 2013, and currency manipulation was the most significant cause of the deficit.”
“The Economic Policy Institute estimates that this trade deficit with Japan resulted in 896,600 jobs eliminated in the U.S, in nearly every congressional district. Future trade agreements, including TPP, should directly address currency manipulation and include binding consequences for those that continue to manipulate currency,” he said.
Read the letter in its entirety here.