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U.S. Rep. Tom Reed has come out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade accord with 11 Pacific Rim nations, but a Democrat trying to unseat him has made a point of reminding voters about his votes on other trade deals.
"He has actually voted for every single trade deal that has ever come before him in any form," John Plumb said in an interview on Capital Tonight. Plumb, like others, believes some free trade agreements have hurt the region economically.
Reed, R-Corning, first took office in 2011, and he’s taken conservative positions in a Congress where Republicans hold the majority.
Plumb, who most recently served as a military aide in the Obama administration, moved back to the Jamestown area in May to run against Reed in the Southern Tier’s sprawling 23rd Congressional District.
While Reed has come out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that trade deal has yet to come up for a vote in Congress. But others have, so we checked his record to see if he voted for every single trade deal that has come before him so far.
Voting on trade deals
Since Reed took office, the United States has entered into three trade agreements. The agreements - with Panama, Colombia and South Korea - took effect in 2012. Each reduced trade barriers between the United States and those countries. Reed voted in favor of all three when they came to the floor of the House of Representatives for roll call votes.
Reed also voted in 2015 to implement what’s known as Trade Promotion Authority. It has been used for decades to allow the sitting president to negotiate major trade deals with consultation from Congress. In this case, Congress gave President Obama authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The legislation itself is not a trade deal but is seen as a precursor to one.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership would eliminate tariffs on goods and services, remove non-tariff barriers and set rules for trade and business investment among the United States and other countries in the proposed accord, including Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam.
New York’s congressional delegation was mixed on the TPA bill because some saw it as a procedural pre-approval for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Reed voted for the legislation, but he has said he does not support the negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership.
"Tom Reed opposes TPP. He has done so since the text was made available by the Obama administration," said Amy Hasenberg, a spokeswoman for his campaign. "Like every trade deal that has come before Tom, he evaluated it on its merits. For Western New York, TPP didn't have any merits."
Voting for free trade
Other votes in Congress impact free trade, too. The Cato Institute has compiled votes in Congress on legislation supporting or limiting free trade.
One measure, for example, resurrected the Export-Import Bank. Reed voted in favor of resurrecting the Export-Import Bank in 2015 after its authority lapsed for five months.The bank offers credit to a small percentage of foreign buyers who may not be able to afford interest rates available on the free market. The bank subsidizes financing to those buyers by offering lower rates. The institute says the subsidies help some American companies at the expense of domestic customers, foreign suppliers, and other exporters. The bank promotes trade for some products made in the United States over others. The institute says this infringes on free trade.
"It’s paying them to do business with American companies," said Bill Watson, a trade policy analyst from the Cato Institute. "The companies get a lower interest rate than they would in the free market.
"It does that by putting U.S. taxpayers on the line by guaranteeing financing," he added
Simon Johnson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology agrees, but he said that while export subsidies may reduce free trade, they typically increase trade overall.
In an interview, Plumb said Reed "has actually voted for every single trade deal that has ever come before him in any form."
Congress has voted on three trade agreements with other nations since Reed took office in 2011, and a look at the roll calls confirmed he voted for each one. Reed did vote to reauthorize the Export-Import bank. But Plumb got it right when he said the congressman voted for the trade agreements.
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Email conversation with Samuel Newton from the John Plumb campaign
Email conversation with Amy Hasenberg from Rep. Tom Reed’s campaign
Email conversation with Emily Schillinger from the House Ways and Means Committee
Email conversation with Simon Johnson from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Email conversation with Robert Howse from New York University School of Law
Phone conversation with Bill Watson from the Cato Institute
Interview with John Plumb on Capital Tonight, Aug. 29, 2016
"Are Trade Agreements Good for Americans?" New York Times Opinion, Mar. 17, 2016, Accessed Aug. 31, 2016
"Former White House military aide Plumb to challenge Rep. Tom Reed", The Buffalo News, July 8, 2015, Accessed Aug. 30, 2016
List of Free Trade Agreements from the United States Trade Representative, Accessed Aug. 31, 2016
U.S. - Panama Free Trade Agreement Legislation from the House of Representatives, Accessed Aug. 31, 2016
U.S. - South Korea Free Trade Agreement Legislation from the House of Representatives, Accessed Aug. 31, 2016
U.S. - Colombia Free Trade Agreement Legislation from the House of Representatives, Accessed Aug. 31, 2016
White House Fact Sheet on Trade Promotion Authority, Accessed Aug. 31, 2016
Trade Promotion Authority and Fast-Track Negotiating Authority for Trade Agreements: Major Votes, Congressional Research Service, Jan. 12, 2011, Accessed Aug. 31, 2016
"Tonko, Gibson, Stefanik divided on fast-track trade", Albany Times Union, May 31, 2015, Accessed Aug. 30, 2016
The Trade Promotion Authority Standalone legislation, Accessed Aug. 31, 2016
H.R. 2146 (The bill TPA was attached to), Accessed Aug. 31, 2016
Roll call vote on H.R. 2146, Accessed Aug. 31, 2016
ProPublica analysis of party votes on Trade Promotion Authority, Accessed Aug. 31, 2016
Free Trade, Free Markets: Rating the Congress, Cato Institute tool that looked at free trade votes, Accessed Aug. 31, 2016
History of the Export-Import Bank, Accessed Aug. 30, 2016
"So What's in the Trade Agreements with Colombia, Panama and Korea?" U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Oct. 4, 2011, Accessed Sep. 1, 2016
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