Ending the Era of Giveaway Trade

Two years ago today, a little-noticed, but profoundly important, trade agreement between the United States and South Korea took effect. At the time, negotiators from both countries hailed this trade agreement as a deal that would expand our economy, increase exports and create jobs. Today, we know that these claims are simply untrue.

Yesterday, none other than The Wall Street Journal declared "Korea-U.S. FTA Scorecard Shows Seoul The Big Winner," and the statistics confirm this fact.

Since the Korea free trade agreement went into effect, our economy has lost an average of $385 million each month in exports to Korea, and U.S. exports are down 11 percent. In perhaps the biggest sign of how badly our economy has been hurt, our two year trade deficit with Korea is now projected to be $8.6 billion higher than it was prior to this flawed agreement taking place.

The crash in U.S. exports is particularly concerning because this agreement has been used as the foundation for a new trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is currently being negotiated between the United states and 11 other nations.

That is just one of the many reasons I have joined more than 150 Democrats in the House to declare our opposition to granting "fast track authority" to the Obama Administration and allowing trade negotiators to rush through another flawed trade deal. Congress has a responsibility to stand up for our American manufacturers and the Americans workers they employ.

We must stand up for companies like America's big three automakers. Virtually no industry has been as hurt by trade with Korea -- and its unseen non-tariff barriers to trade -- as the American auto industry. In fact, 91.5 percent of our current trade deficit with Korea is due to auto trade. In 2013, 8 percent of all cars sold in the United States (or 1.25 million autos) were of Korean origin while just 0.8 percent of cars sold in Korea (or just 11,657 autos) were American.

Instead of rubber stamping another flawed trade agreement that will ship American jobs overseas and dump our wages and benefits overboard along the way, Congress should be implementing new standards under which the United States Trade Representative can negotiate fair trade deals- trade deals that prioritize the American worker and ensure that American manufacturers are given a level playing field upon which to compete and win.

An important part of any future trade agreement must be a "snapback provision" to give the United States government, manufacturers or American workers the ability to take immediate action when a foreign nation tries to tilt the playing field in their favor through unfair trade practices.

A snapback provision is not a new or radical policy -- it is a commonsense solution to hold our competitors accountable and provide American manufacturers a level playing field around the world. In fact, US trade negotiators included a snapback provision in the Korean trade agreement to specifically help the American auto industry. Unfortunately, the Korean trade agreement wrongly requires the auto industry to wait five years before using this tool. A snapback provision isn't very effective if you have to wait 5 years -- in that time, our manufacturers can lose our competitive advantages and never be able to regain the ground that is lost.

That's why, unlike the snapback provision contained in the Korean trade agreement, future trade agreements should provide a snapback provision that can be used immediately, thus allowing our manufacturers to compete on a level playing field from the start.

I have introduced a bill in Congress called the Reciprocal Market Access Act that would implement snapback provisions in all future trade agreements and require trade negotiators to address both tariff and non-tariff barriers when negotiating a trade agreement. I remain confident that when given a level playing field, American manufacturers will win.

Finally, in order to ensure that all future trade agreements are not only 'free' but 'fair' we must have vigorous oversight from our media. Unfortunately, when it comes to the negotiations surrounding the Trans-Pacific Partnership, our mainstream news media is nowhere to be found.

According to a recent Media Matters report, major news outlets have largely failed to report on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In fact, during one six-month period, network evening news shows completely ignored the TPP, with this massive trade bill receiving just one mention on PBS' Newshour.

At the same time, lobbying disclosure forms have revealed that parent companies for many of these news outlets -- specifically Time Warner, Disney, Comcast and Twenty-First Century Fox -- have lobbied the federal government on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The American people need to know about the largest potential trade agreement in modern history -- and the media's failure to report on this issue has been a dereliction of duty. A strong press, and a strong Congress, must finally provide the trade agreement oversight that has been absent for far too long.

In a globalized world, it is vital that our government support international trade. Yet during my time in Congress, I have never seen a free trade deal that has benefitted American producers or the American workers that they employ. It's time for that to change. That is why Congress should not reauthorize Fast Track Authority and that is why I have authored the Reciprocal Market Access Act. It's time to make trade not only 'free,' but also 'fair.' If we do so, I am confident that American producers -- and American workers -- will win.