January 27,2015

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Wyden Says U.S. Trade Must Work for Middle-Class Americans

Ranking Democrat Highlights Need for Transparency, Protecting an Open Internet and Tough Enforcement in Trade Policy

WASHINGTON –Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., at a hearing today asked U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman to describe how new U.S. trade policies will create middle-class jobs and lift wages. Wyden also cited tough enforcement of trade laws, strong protection of a free and open Internet, and a commitment to transparency in trade debates as key components for a modern, effective U.S. trade policy.

“Those who favor a trade agenda that takes on the challenges of a hyper-competitive global economy have a responsibility to make the case that it will work for America’s middle class,” Wyden said. “Trade agreements need to bulldoze barriers and open new markets to exports made by businesses and workers in Oregon and across the country. Done right, trade agreements should help create middle-class jobs and lift wages.”

Wyden noted the dramatic impact of the Internet and technology on international trade in recent years. Trade deals must preserve a free and open Internet and promote American innovators’ access to global consumers, Wyden said. He cited enormous public concern that trade agreements must not sign away the right to a free, open Internet.

“Millions of Internet users want it clear and they want it straightforward that nothing is going to be done to undermine an open Internet,” through trade deals, Wyden said.

Ambassador Froman committed to protecting the U.S. standards for the open Internet through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement and other trade agreements.

“We view TPP as an opportunity to bring into the digital economy fundamental principles from the real or the physical economy, including the importance of the free flow of information and data across borders, and maintaining a free and open Internet,” Froman said. “What we’re pursuing in TPP is the approach that has been crafted here under U.S. law.”

Wyden also outlined several areas of trade policy that the administration must prioritize as a prerequisite for modernizing U.S. trade policy and ensuring American workers and businesses can compete in tough global markets, including tough enforcement measures.

“There has never been a greater need for the U.S. to back its workers and businesses and ensure tough enforcement for trade agreements in the face of unfair schemes by foreign governments and companies that threaten American jobs and exports,” Wyden said. “Foreign governments must also be held accountable for their commitments to uphold labor rights and environmental protections, both of which are now bedrock elements of trade agreements in today’s global economy.”

Finally, Wyden pressed Froman to address concerns that a fast track bill would prevent a public debate on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and emphasized that discussion of trade policies needs to be more transparent than in the past. The American people deserve to see what’s at stake before agreements are signed.

“The American people have made it very clear that they will not accept secretly-written agreements that don’t see the light of day until the very last minute,” Wyden said. “People have the right to know what’s at stake in negotiations before they wrap up - our trade policies are stronger if they are part of the debate.”

Wyden’s full opening statement is available here. Video is available here.