House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, (R-Wis.) says approving a massive trade package sought by President Obama will allow the U.S. to "write the rules" of the global economy. Parts of the package are now in limbo in the House.
Ryan spoke with NPR's Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep about the trade deal and about Trade Promotion Authority, also known as fast-track, which would allow the president to negotiate the trade agreement with Pacific Rim nations known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and then have Congress pass it with an up-or-down vote.
On what the trade package does for the U.S.:
"What we're requiring in these negotiations, as we direct in our trade promotion authority legislation, is that these other countries level the playing field — they treat us like we treat them, they open their markets reciprocally to ours to our exports, and they raise their standards to our standards. Play by our rules with respect to things like intellectual property protection, rule of law, those kinds of things that are very important to make sure that we set the standards for the global economy.
"So if it goes like people like myself hope it goes, then America along with our allies are writing the rules of this global economy at the beginning of this 21st century. If we chose not to engage, if we say America shouldn't bother negotiating trade agreements ... then we're simply saying, 'We forfeit the leadership role in the world to write the rules' and we let other countries such as China write the rules instead of us."
On arguments that deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership will cost American jobs:
"Since ... 2007, there have been 100 trade agreements struck around the world without America. And that means other countries are already doing this, getting better access, getting better market access, and we're not, and that means we lose jobs."
On arguments from some Democrats that the trade deal will allow other nations to effectively lower U.S. wages and standards for financial rules, labor regulations, and the environment:
"There really isn't any justice in that claim, it's really kind of a straw man or what I'd call a red herring argument, because we make it extremely clear in our trade promotion authority that only Congress can change laws. You can't enter into an agreement that Congress doesn't approve that changes our laws.
"We make it very clear that the goal of this is to have other countries raise their standards to our levels and not degrade their standards. That's one of the criticisms from agreements back in the 20th century. So we want modern agreements that raise high standards to get other countries to play by our rules, and we do not allow other countries through any mechanism to require or force changes in U.S. laws."
On whether the treaty would mean foreign trading partners can challenge U.S. policies and regulations that they think adversely affect them:
"No. They can get monetary damage penalties, they can't challenge or change regulations at any level of our government."
On criticism that the treaty is being written in secret:
"It's one of the reasons why we're trying to pass trade promotion authority, so that we can guarantee that the public gets to see any trade agreement that is reached. We do not have trade promotion authority in place right now, and ... as a result of that, the kind of transparency that occurs is whatever the administration wants.
"What we are demanding and insisting on in our trade promotion authority is not only that members of Congress have full access to anything that's classified for the moment, but once an agreement is actually reached between countries, that agreement must be made public ... for 60 days for the public to see before a president can even sign an agreement, and when he signs it he simply sends it to Congress and then Congress spends a minimum of 30 days ... considering the agreement.
"The reasons some things are classified right now is it's in negotiations. You don't want to go into negotiations at any level, whether it's transactions or government-to-government with all your cards face up."