It is rare that as constituents we are able to break through the political bubble and babble and engage in any kind of dialogue with our members of Congress. Indeed, the only time we usually hear from them is when they hit us up for donations for their campaigns, which is seemingly never-ending.
Yet here is at least one instance in which I wrote to my senator, Chuck Schumer (D-New York), about a critical issue and actually received a response. In my letter I had registered particular concern about the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and plans to "fast track" its implementation, two of several issues on which I wanted his input. He is, after all, the third ranking Democrat in the Senate.
Frankly, I had not expected a response; I was simply exercising my right as a citizen to speak truth to power in a way as old as democracy itself. Yet, lo and behold, look at what hit my in box last Friday: a thoughtful and thorough response from the man himself, which I felt was worth sharing. We never do really know what our elected officials' positions are on some of these issues of great importance until they vote, sponsor or co-sponsor bills. I thank Senator Schumer for reaching out to me on this critical issue that could impact our entire nation for generations to come, and I thank his office for graciously allowing me to post his letter, which sheds some needed light on this subject.
And so, our blog post today is turned over to Senator Charles E. Schumer:
March 6, 2015
Dear Ms Korn:
Thank you for writing to express your concerns regarding Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation and the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement. I agree that Congress and the American people must have a strong voice in our trade policies.
In my view, the number one issue facing America is declining middle class incomes and any trade deal must be viewed through the lens of how it will impact middle class incomes for future generations. It is not enough that free trade agreements boost US corporate profits. Any trade agreement that does not also include the necessary tools to protect American middle class incomes and middle class jobs is a big problem for me.
Many middle class workers, especially in the manufacturing sector, have been hurt by unfair foreign competition in recent decades. Any trade deal must actively protect American workers and industry from competing with the unfair and unjust practices of some foreign countries and companies. Congress must ensure that any trade agreement include strong and enforceable intellectual property rights, labor rights, anti-currency manipulation provisions, and environmental standards. Congress must also ensure that our trade policy act to promote job growth in high-skilled, high-wage innovative sectors of our economy.
I have long supported policies to combat foreign trade cheaters and level-playing field for American businesses. I authored the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act, which would combat currency manipulation that gives foreign companies in China and elsewhere an unfair market advantage. Enforceable currency manipulation provisions are a must in any future trade agreement. This bill was recently reintroduced in the 114th Congress and I will continue to press for its passage this Congress.
I have also worked diligently to advocate for U.S. manufacturers coping with foreign trade cheaters. This past year, I urged federal trade enforcement agencies to conduct thorough investigations into allegations brought by U.S. manufactures of foreign companies' predatory trade practices. From steel companies in Buffalo to paper producers in Glens Falls, New York manufactures are amongst the most competitive in the world. We must be vigilant in our efforts to protect our companies and their workers from anticompetitive foreign practices.
As you may know, texts of ongoing trade agreements, like the Trans Pacific Partnership, are classified during live negotiations. However, the United States Trade Representative does release summaries of policies discussed during negotiations. Congress and the American people must have a strong say in any legislation affecting our trade or regulatory policies. As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, I will closely examine the impact that any trade legislation would have on New York businesses and families.
Again, thank you for contacting me on this important issue. Please feel free to contact me again if I can be of further assistance on this, or any other matter.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator
With Jonathan Stone