Obama Has Given Us No Reason to Trust Him on Trade

The following opnion-editorial ran in the Wheeling News Register/Intelligencer on Sunday, February 15

Trust is a precious commodity. Think of the last time someone you trusted broke a promise. Would you trust their word the next time they offered it?

President Obama has consistently broken his trust with the American people on immigration, health care, and foreign policy yet he is now asking for expanded power to negotiate trade deals, but without input from Congress. This authority is called “fast-track” and would allow the President to negotiate wide-ranging deals behind closed doors with nations in Asia and South America as well as the European Union. Any deal he makes would receive a rushed vote on the House floor with no amendments and limited debate.

In fact, the Obama Administration is already negotiating these deals in secret. The draft agreements are treated like state secrets, meaning lawmakers may only review them under strict rules - no notes, no copies, no staff.

Given his track record of broken promises and circumventing Congress, why should the American people trust that any agreement President Obama negotiates will be in their best interest? There is concern in Congress on both sides of the aisle that he will not cut a fair deal.

The President has repeatedly shown he will use his influence to push an agenda – sometimes going beyond his Constitutional authority. If given this “fast-track” authority what could President Obama include in a trade agreement? He could mandate a reduction in the use of natural gas and coal at home and abroad, implement his controversial climate change agenda, and impose radical environmentalist regulations.

President Obama is already telegraphing his tactics in recent deals with foreign nations. In China, he agreed to reduce our use of coal and gas while not holding them to the same standard. In India, he called for them to use less coal when producing energy.

The new trade agreements President Obama is negotiating with Asian and European countries are no less than “NAFTA on steroids.” We’ve watched this movie before, and in West Virginia, it does not have a happy ending.

President Obama should visit West Virginia, western Pennsylvania, or eastern Ohio and see the real world impact of these past unfair trade policies. He could drive through Wheeling and Weirton where the once booming steel industry employed 30,000 workers, but now is down to under 1,000. He could visit Homer Laughlin China in Newell, one of the last manufacturers of china in America, that is already competing with cheap knock-offs coming from Asia. He could visit Marble King in Paden City, a manufacturer that competes with foreign companies that pay wages a fraction of what is paid in West Virginia.

Some parts of America may have benefited from previous trade agreements, but in West Virginia, we are well aware how prior “fast-track” trade agreements, like NAFTA, have wreaked havoc on our industrial heartland, costing jobs and devastating communities. Driving up the Ohio River Valley you can see the abandoned plants that serve as silent monuments to unfair trade agreements that have spelled disaster for American workers.

Trade can be good for our economy, but only if it is fair. Giving President Obama “fast-track” authority does not ensure American workers the level playing field they deserve.

Fair trade for American businesses, consumers, and workers would be a better goal for the Congress to pursue. A fair trade policy would keep in mind middle-class families that have seen manufacturing jobs decline by nearly 700,000 since NAFTA and zero wage growth since 1996.

President Obama’s massive trade agreements will ultimately run thousands of pages and cover hundreds of issues, impacting all corners of our economy, and without input from Congress. Do you remember when Nancy Pelosi said Congress had to pass Obamacare to find out what’s in it? It will be the same with these trade deals.

Haven’t we learned our lesson?

President Obama has lost the trust of many Democrats and Republicans and it would be a mistake to grant him “fast-track” authority.