‘Fast track’ trade deal reached by Sen. Wyden

Oregon Democrat found common ground with key Republicans on a controversial trade bill.

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Oregon Democrat Sen. Ron Wyden found common ground with key Republicans on a controversial trade bill.

The deal sets up a trade agreement with Pacific Rim countries, OregonLive.com reports.

Wyden, the ranking Democrat on the finance committee, won a series of concessions from the finance committee chairman, Utah’s Orrin Hatch, as well as from House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., on a “fast-track” trade bill setting out the rules for congressional consideration of the upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership involving 12 countries.

The agreement, announced by Wyden early Thursday afternoon, did not quiet criticism from organized labor and other opponents of free-trade pacts who have heavily lobbied Wyden not to reach a deal with Hatch and Ryan. Several groups have threatened to fight against his 2016 re-election because of his stance on this issue. However, the agreement could help sway eight to 15 Senate Democrats who are believed to be on the fence on the fast-track bill. For that reason, President Barack Obama and Hatch worked hard to bring Wyden onboard.

In a statement, Wyden said: “I’m proud this bipartisan bill creates what I expect to be unprecedented transparency in trade negotiations, and ensures future trade deals break new ground to promote human rights, improve labor conditions, and safeguard the environment.”

The Portland Business Alliance lauded the legislation.

From the Portland Tribune:

“Oregon is one of this country’s most trade-dependent states, with some 490,000 jobs in the state tied to trade. Expansion of international trade opportunities is key to growing jobs in Oregon, especially those critically important middle-income jobs. That is why the Portland Business Alliance and the Pacific Northwest International Trade Association have strongly supported reauthorization of the Trade Promotion Authority, as well as passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will greatly expand opportunities with some of Oregon’s most important trading partners,” said President and CEO Sandra McDonough.

The Oregon Fair Trade Campaign — a union-backed organization — wasn’t as complimentary.

From the PT:

“Senator Ron Wyden repeatedly promised to fight for Oregonians’ access to trade policy proposals that will impact their jobs, their wages and their quality of life. Not only has he failed to do that, he’s just signed off on legislation that would make transparency in trade negotiations qualitatively worse. This is a betrayal of Oregon’s working families and of democratic policymaking, and Oregonians won’t stand for it,” says Director Elizabeth Swager.

 The work on the bill is far from done, according to the Associated Press.

One Democrat, Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, said the agreement marked only a start and could be derailed by amendments that might be added when lawmakers consider the bill in committees or on the floor. Brown and other Democrats who are aligned with organized labor are often highly suspicious of, or even hostile to, trade legislation. They argue such measures facilitate agreements that wind up destroying jobs in the United States and creating jobs in nations that lack the environmental and worker safety protections that exist in the United States.

“Negotiating objectives without enforcement mechanisms don’t get you very far,” Brown told reporters.