Rep. John Lewis Strongly Opposes Current Trade Bill
WASHINGTON--This morning Rep. John Lewis made an impassioned appeal on the House floor for members to vote No to the Senate passed Trade Promotion Authority bill (TPA). Lewis authored an amendment rejected by House leadership which crystallizes some of the Democratic criticism of TPA . They believe, among other things, that trade partnership should be used as an opportunity to leverage fairer labor and human rights provision in countries who want to partner with the United States. The Lewis amendment would provide instructions to trade partners on labor and human rights and add a procedure, to be used as appropriate, where human rights legislation could be added to any trade deal. He offered this language as an amendment to be debated before the full House of Representatives.
His is one of the many amendments Ways and Means Democrats offered to make TPA a more humane legislative package. All of the Democratic amendments were rejected along party lines. Rep. Lewis made this strong speech opposing TPA as it is currently written. Rep. Lewis plans to introduce as a bill, instead of as an amendment, to ensure congressional participation on labor, human rights, and trade. Link to Lewis floor statement ;
Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to this 'fast track' amendment. Over twenty years ago, I stood on this very House Floor in opposition to NAFTA. I felt strongly then, as I do now, that these agreements are about more than trade. They are a reflections of our values.
Let me be clear, I am for trade. Since NAFTA, I have opposed some agreements and supported others. But I am not for trade at any price or at any cost. Those of us on the Ways and Means Committee tried time and time again to make this legislation better. But mine, and every single other Democratic amendment, was rejected.
Mr. Speaker, I have visited Vietnam, and I know that there is much work to be done. There is no freedom to organize, and freedom of speech is limited. My constituents from Georgia are calling and writing my office in waves. For over twenty years they have felt the hardship of unfair trade. Textile and automobile factories disappeared from Metro Atlanta. Good jobs were shipped to Bangladesh, to China, to Mexico. Americans should not have to compete with starvation wages and environmental destruction.
Mr. Speaker, I do not know about you, but as Joshua of old said, `as for me and my house', I am going to cast my lot with the working people of America. Today we have an opportunity to do what is right and what is just. We can develop smart trade policies which reflect our values. Labor, human rights, and trade have always been connected. This is not new.
This little planet is not ours to waste, but to use what we need, and leave this planet a little greener, and a little more peaceful for generations unborn. This Congress must be a headlight not a tail light, or history will not be kind to us. I urge each and every one of the Member to do what is right and stand up for the working people of this country. I urge my colleagues to vote no. ###