The bipartisan caution being voiced by federal lawmakers representing this area should be enough to slow the march to a new trade deal with 11 Pacific Rim nations.
The president says the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, will lower trade barriers between the United States and Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
It is being touted by Secretary of State John F. Kerry as potentially providing billions of dollars a year in income for Americans and supporting several hundred thousand new jobs in the United States.
But Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, is raising concerns.
As News Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski noted, Collins is going against some of his big political supporters, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, in opposing the deal.
However, on this issue the Republican-dominated House and Senate appear ready to strike a deal to allow President Obama to negotiate the TPP.
But Collins is a businessman; he has been down this road before and he knows how rocky it can get. He found out in the early 2000s, after investing in the now-defunct Buffalo China Corp. and eventually rebranding it as Niagara Ceramics, how Chinese competitors play the game. Unfairly. They undercut Niagara Ceramics, according to Collins, and eventually sent the company out of business.
It is from that bitter lesson that Collins has emerged an unlikely opponent of the trade deal. As he said, he is concerned that failure to address the issue of currency manipulation could be bad for American jobs.
While the TPP is generating rare bipartisan support in Washington, it is generating bipartisan opposition here. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, also said he plans to vote no. The Democrat cited the difficulties previous free-trade agreements have posed to American manufacturers.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., has been out front opposing currency manipulation by China. While China is not part of the TPP, he said he will not support the deal “unless a law is enacted that holds countries accountable for currency manipulation.” Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., is concerned about TPP’s impact on jobs.
That leaves one corner of support for the deal in the Western New York delegation: Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning. He is a member of the Ways and Means Committee tasked with drafting the legislation that would give Obama “fast-track” authority to negotiate the trade deal without allowing Congress to make any amendments.
Previous trade deals were passed with rosy projections of jobs to be created. Instead, manufacturing employment in the United States continues to drop. TPP supporters should delay the legislation until they can show why this deal will be different.