Why I am voting for TPA

TPA is a process, not a trade bill

by Congressman Sam Farr

The strength of the Central Coast’s economy lies not in maintaining the status quo. It lies in our ability to adapt and change to meet the demands of a global community. The Central Coast is connected to that international community. We are the home of the Defense Language Institute, the Naval Postgraduate School and many other world renowned colleges and universities. And our local businesses rely on access to new markets around the globe to compete.

Trade opens up those markets. It puts the goods we produce and the crops we grow here in California into the hands of more buyers around the world. More sales abroad create more jobs here at home. Trade is good for the Central Coast.

The House is scheduled to vote on Trade Promotion Authority, commonly known as “fast-track” this week. TPA is not a trade agreement. Instead it simply defines the process Congress will use to vote on future trade deals. TPA sets the strongest human rights, environmental and labor standards for trade in the history of our country. These are not ceilings but instead are floors that have to be met, giving President Obama the leverage necessary to push for even stronger standards when negotiating with other countries.

TPA sets the strongest human rights, environmental and labor standards for trade in the history of our country.

I learned in the Peace Corps that to solve problems, you have to engage. Our world is facing some serious problems that will require the international community coming together to address them. Now is not the time to sit back and become isolationists. Instead, we have to move forward by working with our partners around the globe to push for real change. Engaging in trade offers us that chance to change the world.

The White House is currently negotiating a trade deal with eleven other countries along the Pacific Rim. A final deal has not been reached but I fully expect it to be the strongest trade deal ever negotiated. It will require all of the signatories to address issues like conditions in their factories or fair pay for their workers. It will also improve environmental standards leading to cleaner air and cleaner water.

Like every tough vote I take in Washington, I think about how this will impact the people I represent. To gain that understanding I listened. I listened to people back home, to those who came into my office or left messages for me to read. I listened to labor groups, human rights organizations and environmental groups. I listened to our local businesses and our local growers. In the end, I concluded voting for TPA is the right thing to do for our district, our economy and our environment.

To put in bluntly, I trust President Obama to deliver a better trade deal than Speaker Boehner and Senator McConnell. Under TPA, any deal brought to Congress by the President will be made public and reviewed for 60 days. At the end of that time period, Congress will hold a simple up or down vote. Without TPA, the Republican controlled Congress would be able to strip out any of the tougher standards put in place by the White House.

TPA also raises the bar for future administrations to meet. What in past trade deals were sidebar agreements on labor rights, human rights and the environment will now be statutory law. They are not bargaining chips that can be tossed away at the table. The are the foundation that every country must meet if they want to trade freely with the United States.

They are the foundation that every country must meet if they want to trade freely with the United States.

There are many in my party who disagree with this vote. The easy vote for me would be to join with them. But I did not come to Congress to do what is easy. I came here to do what I feel is right, no matter how hard that vote will be. A yes vote on TPA is right. It means moving us forward while a no vote on TPA means remaining stuck.

TPA is the best process we have to pass better trade pacts. Any deal brought before Congress will have to meet the stronger standards on labor rights, human rights and the environment. If it does, then I will vote for it. If it does not, then I will vote against it — because Congress still retains the authority to approve all trade agreements negotiated by the President under TPA.

Congressman Sam Farr represents California’s 20th district which includes the Monterey Bay region, the Salinas Valley and Big Sur.