Lawmakers Rebuke Biden for Bypassing Congress in Trade Deal With Japan

Lawmakers Rebuke Biden for Bypassing Congress in Trade Deal With Japan
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WASHINGTON — Lawmakers on Tuesday sharply rebuked a limited trade deal the Biden administration struck with Japan, saying it should have been made available to Congress and the public for scrutiny and that it lacked important safeguards for the environment and the workers are absent.

In a statement seen by the New York Times, Massachusetts Rep. Richard E. Neal, senior Democrat member of the Ways and Means Committee, and Senator Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat and chair of the Finance Committee, called the agreement “unacceptable.” . .”

“Without enforceable environmental or labor protections, the government is abandoning worker-centric trade policies and jeopardizing our climate work by opening the door to another environmental disaster,” wrote lawmakers, who are the two most powerful Democrats in Congress on trade issues.

“Agreements should be developed transparently and made available to the public for meaningful verification well before they are signed,” they added, “not after the ink is already dry.”

The Biden administration announced late Monday that it had reached an agreement with Japan to supply critical minerals, such as lithium, cobalt and nickel, used to make car batteries. The deal offers the Biden administration a potential solution to its disagreements with allies over the terms of the Inflation Reduction Act, which is investing $370 billion to transition the United States to cleaner cars and energy sources.

  • Geothermal: Japan’s abundant geothermal energy could play an important role in replacing the country’s coal, gas or nuclear power plants. But hot spring resort owners stand in the way.
  • strawberries in winter: Thanks to greenhouses and huge heaters, the strawberry harvest in Japan peaks in winter. But this off-season farming comes at a huge environmental cost.
  • Animal Cafes: The country’s exotic animal cafes are popular with locals and tourists alike. However, a survey released earlier this year points to the risks these sites pose to wildlife conservation, public health and animal welfare.
  • Relations with South Korea: In the latest sign of a diplomatic thaw, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol visited Japan for a summit with Fumio Kishida, the Japanese Prime Minister. It was the first visit of this kind in 12 years.

That law has angered some allies who have been cut off from its benefits, including generous tax incentives for companies that make electric vehicles in North America or source battery materials from the United States or countries with which it has free trade agreements. This category does not include Japan or European Union countries.

But because the Inflation Reduction Act doesn’t technically define what constitutes a free trade agreement, US officials have come up with a solution they believe is possible. They argue countries will be able to meet the requirement by signing a more limited trade deal instead. The Treasury Department is expected to issue a rule proposal this week that will clarify the provisions of the law.

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A fact sheet distributed late Monday by the United States Office of the Trade Representative said the United States and Japan had pledged to promote higher labor and environmental standards for minerals that power electric vehicles. The parties also pledged to promote more efficient use of resources and, among other things, to consult on how to screen foreign companies’ investments in the sector.

In a call with reporters Monday, a senior official said the Biden administration had consulted with Congress and received input from lawmakers. But the official said the government has the power to negotiate limited agreements without submitting them to Congress for approval.

Katherine Tai, the United States Trade Representative, was scheduled to sign the agreement on Tuesday.

“It is clear that this agreement is a convenience agreement,” Mr. Neal and Mr. Wyden said in the statement. “As we warned Ambassador Tai last week, the government has no authority to enter into free trade agreements unilaterally.”

Administration officials have argued that key members of Congress always intended to include US allies in benefiting from the law. But other lawmakers have also criticized the Biden administration for sidestepping congressional authority over new trade deals, a tactic the Trump administration has also frequently employed.

In a statement Tuesday, Rep. Jason Smith, a Missouri Republican and chair of the Ways and Means Committee, said the deal with Japan had not shifted critical mineral supply chains out of China.

“Equally shameful is the fact that the Biden administration is distorting the plain language of US law in order to write as many green welfare checks as possible,” Mr Smith said. “The administration has not been transparent with the American people and has ignored important concerns raised by Congress, including the failure to provide an analysis of the impact this agreement would have on American workers.”

Michigan Democrat Rep. Dan Kildee said Tuesday the government was taking the wrong approach with the deal.

“I believe the administration needs to come to Congress if it wants to make new free trade agreements,” he said in a statement.

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2023-03-28 18:53:50