U.S. Sen. Richard Burr is criticizing his Democratic challenger, Deborah Ross, saying she has failed to make clear her position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership – a trade deal that critics say could add hurt North Carolina communities already damaged by the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a trade deal involving the United States, Canada, Mexico, and nine other Pacific Rim countries that aims to strengthen economic ties between the nations by reducing tariffs and promoting trade. The deal has been finalized but not ratified.
The Republican Burr attacked Ross in a Aug. 12 tweet that asked why she hadn’t spoken out against TPP. North Carolina sustained job losses in the aftermath of the NAFTA agreement and its residents are now caught in the crosscurrents of politics and big trade deals, said Ferrel Guillory, adjunct faculty member in UNC-Chapel Hill’s Department of Public Policy.
Its residents with a stake in the textile and furniture industry suffered greatly in the recession of 2008, Guillory said.
“There are people here in economic distress who see a lot of reason to blame international trade deals as part of that,” he said.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership “is a bad deal for America and especially North Carolina,” Burr, the Republican incumbent, said in an email Wednesday.
“Trade agreements should be fair, but TPP does not include any enforceable provisions to address currency manipulation, which has put American workers at a disadvantage to countries that do not play by the rules,” he said. “TPP does not adequately protect the intellectual property rights of U.S. companies, and doesn’t let all of North Carolina’s agricultural products take full advantage of the benefits a trade agreement should offer. This deal is a raw deal for North Carolina, and I will do what I can to defeat it.”
There are people here in economic distress who see a lot of reason to blame international trade deals as part of that.
Ferrel Guillory of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Department of Public Policy
Ross, a former state representative, has not made the trade deal a key point in her campaign but said she opposes TPP.
“I have always said that I am against TPP,” she said. “We need to protect American workers and we need to stop trade agreements. It hurts the middle class.”
Ross said in an interview with The Charlotte Observer that she has instead focused on the need for equal pay, college affordability and raising the minimum wage.
She also criticized Burr for supporting the fast-tracking of trade deals. Burr voted last year to pass the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which allows the president to fast-track trade deals by restricting Congress to either approve the deals or vote against them. Lawmakers would not be able to amend those deals.
This fast-track process would make it possible for the president to speed up negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Burr spokesperson Taylor Holgate defended the vote in an email to The Charlotte Observer.
“This was passed before Obama had signed the TPP and the details of the deal were shared,” Holgate wrote. “The TPA legislation requires the administration to meet certain objectives when negotiating trade agreements, requires additional transparency measures, and also enables both Houses of Congress to revoke expedited procedures if the objectives are not met.”