WASHINGTON – An unusual bipartisan coalition of 19 of New York’s 27 House members came together Wednesday in opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal between the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim countries, saying the agreement would destroy manufacturing jobs in the state just like earlier trade deals did.
Reps. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, and Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, spearheaded the effort, which included a letter to President Obama and a Capitol Hill press conference.
“Given a level playing field, New York workers and businesses can compete and win in the global marketplace,” the lawmakers – 13 Democrats and six Republicans – said in the letter. “While we each have our own concerns with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we are united in our opposition to the agreement and in our belief that the TPP will harm many working and middle-class families in New York and across the country.”
Collins likened the deal to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which opened trade to Mexico, and the World Trade Organization deal that opened trade with China.
“They’re stealing our jobs in China; they’re stealing our jobs in Mexico,” said Collins, echoing the concerns of Republican presidential front-runner Donald J. Trump, whom Collins supports. “We’ve seen the devastation left in Western New York ... It’s time for us to say enough is enough.”
Slaughter, meanwhile, noted that the trade partners who have signed onto the TPP don’t share America’s commitment to human rights and decent wages. In Vietnam, for example, she noted that workers earn 65 cents an hour.
Obama has been singing a far different tune about the trade agreement.
“This is the highest standard and most progressive trade deal ever concluded,” the president said on a trip to Asia late last year. “It includes strong protections for workers, prohibitions against child labor and forced labor. It has provisions to protect the environment, to help stop wildlife trafficking, to protect our oceans ... And as a consequence, this is not only a good deal economically; it also reflects our common values.”
The New Yorkers at the press conference took a sharply different view of the trade deal with Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru and Singapore as well as Vietnam.
“Both in terms of process and policy, this is a bad bill,” said Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo. “It was not negotiated with any transparency. There is no opportunity to debate the component parts.”
Meantime, Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Long Island Republican, said: “This is NAFTA on steroids.”
Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, also signed the letter to the president opposing the TPP.
Two Republican lawmakers from the state – Reps. Richard Hanna and Pete King – did not sign the letter. Neither did Democratic Reps. Yvette Clarke, Joseph Crowley, Steve Israel, Carolyn Maloney, Kathleen Rice or Charles Rangel.