Paul Ryan: Trade Deal Will Help U.S. 'Set The Standards For The Global Economy' : The Two-Way The Republican House Ways and Means chairman explains to Steve Inskeep why he supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, which is now working its way — in fits and starts — through Congress.

Paul Ryan: Trade Deal Will Help U.S. 'Set The Standards For The Global Economy'

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The best you can say to the prospects for the Trans-Pacific Partnership is that, as of today, the deal is not dead. The proposed Pacific trade deal failed a key vote in the House last week. Lawmakers were planning a do-over as soon as this week, but concluded they need more time. They've extended a deadline for themselves until the end of July. The big question here is whether to streamline President Obama's authority to negotiate the deal. The smaller and more immediate question involves legislation to mitigate that deal's potential effect on American workers. Many Democrats, we should mention, have been profoundly skeptical of the trade deal, even though it's supported by President Obama. Many Republicans are supportive, including Paul Ryan, who is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and, of course, a former vice presidential candidate. Representative Ryan, welcome back to the program.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN: Hey, Steve. Good to be with you. Thanks for having me.

INSKEEP: So I know we're going to argue about the details here a little bit, and you're arguing about them in Congress, but give me the big picture here. If this deal were approved, how would the United States be different in, say, 10 years?

RYAN: Right. So let me just clear up a couple of misperceptions. We're not considering the TPP - Trans-Pacific Partnership. There isn't a trade agreement yet to consider it. It's not a deal. It's still being negotiated. What we're considering in Congress is what we call trade promotion authority, which is to give America the ability to go negotiate a trade agreement and complete negotiations of a trade agreement, then bring that trade agreement to Congress for an up or down vote. The earliest we would conceivably consider any trade agreement, like this one that's being considered in Asia, would be later in the fall. So there isn't an agreement to sort of discuss or debate or vote on yet. It's just whether or not we have the ability to go negotiate, complete negotiations and get a trade agreement.

INSKEEP: Yeah, but you have an idea, generally, of the parameters of this deal. You've been able to look at them.

RYAN: Right.

INSKEEP: So how does this change America if it passes?

RYAN: So how this changes America is it gets America access to these foreign markets. It's - we're negotiating with 11 Pacific nations. And 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, you know, rule of law, those kinds of things that are very important to make sure that we set the standards for the global economy. And so if this goes the way people like myself hope it goes to, then America, along with our allies, are writing the rules of the global economy at the beginning of this 21st century. If we choose not to engage, if we say America shouldn't bother negotiating trade agreements, we shouldn't do this agreement in particular, 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. The last point I'd make is, since we haven't had TPA in 2007, there've been a hundred 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.

INSKEEP: Congressman, you mentioned that this is an opportunity for the United States to set standards for the world. As you know, the fear of many Democrats is that the world will set standards for the United States. Democrats have argued that it's possible that this trade deal or future trade deals could be used as a basis to go into the United States and say financial regulations need to go out the window, environmental regulations need to go out the window, labor rules need to go out the window, or that wages will simply be driven down by competition. Is there some justice in that claim?

RYAN: 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 in an agreement that Congress doesn't approve that changes our laws. That's point number one. Point number two - 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.

INSKEEP: They could challenge U.S. regulations though, couldn't they?

RYAN: No. They can get monetary damage penalties. They cannot challenge or change U.S. regulations at any level of our government. That's one of the bogus disputes on this investor-state issue, which is we've never lost one of these cases. We're already a party to these agreements. But, more importantly, even if we ever lost one of these cases in this dispute settlement, the person who successfully sues gets monetary settlement. They cannot change U.S. regulations or U.S. laws.

INSKEEP: As you know, Congressman, many critics of this deal have criticized the secrecy in which it's being negotiated. They're private negotiations, as they typically are. Lawmakers have been allowed to look at the terms as things have progressed. Other interested parties have been able to look. But Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, was on this program just a few weeks ago and saying that she had actually very little access. Let's listen.


SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN: I can't take any electronic devices - no computer, no iPhone. I can't even walk out with paper notes. I can go and read about the agreement, but I cannot come out in public and talk about any of the specifics.

INSKEEP: If the public could get a look at the specifics, Chairman Ryan, would public support for this deal evaporate?

RYAN: It's one of the reasons why we're trying to pass trade promotion authority, so that we can guarantee the public gets to see any trade agreement that is reached. We do not have trade promotion authority in place right now. And therefore, as a result of that, the kind of transparency that occurs is whatever the administration wants. And that's what we have right now. And so 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, in totality, 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 - after 60 days - looking at the agreement, considering the agreement. The reason some things are classified right now is it's negotiations. You don't want to go into negotiations at any level, whether it's private transactions or government-to-government, with all your cards face-up.

INSKEEP: You're pointing out that Congress would get another look at the final deal; it would be public. And there'd be an up or down vote...

RYAN: Correct.

INSKEEP: But you wouldn't be able to amend it. It'd be a yes or no vote.

RYAN: That's right.

INSKEEP: And you say you really need this deal.

RYAN: That's right.

INSKEEP: In 15 to 20 seconds, will Congress' hands be tied by whatever deal ultimately is struck?

RYAN: You cannot get an agreement if other countries feel they have to negotiate with 536 people. If they get an agreement with the president, only to be taken and rewritten by Congress, countries won't give us their last, best offers. You won't get a good trade agreement if there's never-ending negotiations. This is why, since FDR, every president has had or sought this ability to take an agreement, vote it up or down on its own merits.

INSKEEP: Chairman Ryan, thanks, as always.

RYAN: You bet, Steve. Take care.

INSKEEP: That's Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

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