Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) spoke to his concerns about fast-track executive authority for global trade agreements on the Senate floor Thursday, arguing lawmakers should be focused on the plight of the American people.
The Alabama lawmaker, who has been sounding warning bells about fast-track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), said while he is supportive of trade, he wants to be sure the American people are being heard and not harmed.
“It’s time for us to make sure that we do a trade agreement or trade promotion authority — the product that’s going to be passed into law and become a worldwide trade agreement — that it serves the American people’s interests,” Sessions said. “Somebody’s interests other than some theoretician in a university, somebody’s interest other than some foreign capitol, somebody’s interests other than in the canyons of New York where capital is moved all over the world.”
Sessions argued that Americans have been harmed by recent trade agreements, saying that the percentage of Americans with a job are at its lowest points since the 1970s, wages have declined since 2000 and family income has declined $3,000 since 2009.
“So what is it that’s happening that’s allowing the stock market to go up, business profits to go up, but wages are not?” he said. “And we’ve had a decline in manufacturing. The numbers are unmistakable. And a large part of this is foreign competition. Colleagues, the time has come when we should enter into no trade agreement, not one in which we lose a single job in this country as a result of unfair competition.”
He pointed to a recent article by former Nucor Steel Chairman Daniel DiMicco arguing against the TPP.
“What Mr. DiMicco says is while we remove trade barriers and on up our markets to importing competition, our allies — even when they reduce their tariff barriers — don’t reduce other institutional barriers. And they don’t — and they also utilize currency manipulation, and this currency manipulation can provide a far more substantial advantage in trade than even a tariff does,” Sessions said.
Sessions further pointed to former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Paul Volcker.
“Mr. Volcker said tariffs can be overcome in a manner of weeks by currency manipulation,” Sessions said, highlighting China as an example.
“[China has] pegged their yuan to the U.S. dollar, and they have done it at a level below where it should be on economic terms, and as a result they have gained a trade advantage, and as a result they have decimated American industries, closed factories all over this country, when they wouldn’t have closed if they had a fair dollar to wan currency relationship,” he said.
“They have been found to be manipulating their currency year after year after year. the Treasury admits it but the treasury’s taken no action to do anything about it. As a result, good american people have lost jobs, had their factories closed, their towns and communities damaged economically for unfair trade,” Sessions concluded.