Congressman Jeff Fortenberry defends Congressional action to make it easier for the president to negotiate trade deals with other countries.
Fortenberry says he understands why some people are suspicious about the measure.
“Look, trade is a mixed bag for America. Let’s be honest. It’s very important in Nebraska. It is very helpful to our agricultural sector. It is one of the main economic multipliers that we have in Nebraska. It’s one of the reasons we have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country,” Fortenberry tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN. “But, in other places, such as in the middle of the industrial Rust Belt you’ve seen the decline of American manufacturing and in other sectors as well. Other countries cheat. They subsidize their currency. They don’t have the same type of labor and environmental laws and protections that we have.”
Fortenberry says Congress simply set up the guidelines for a president to negotiate trade agreements that it then will consider.
In late June, Congress approved Trade Promotion Authority, commonly referred to as fast-track trade legislation. It gives the president broad authority to negotiate a trade bill and submit it to Congress for an up-or-down vote. It cannot be amended. The Senate cannot filibuster the deal.
Fortenberry says he’s well aware trade with other countries often isn’t conducted on a level playing field.
“That is why the Congress actually worked very hard to set up the parameters by which the president can then go negotiate a trade agreement,” according to Fortenberry. “We didn’t vote for a trade agreement. We gave him the authority to do so based upon what we wanted to see. That agreement’s not done. We just simply gave him the authority.”
Fortenberry says trade is very important to Nebraska, especially for the state’s agricultural sector.