Both of Maine’s delegates to the U.S. house of Representatives voted to deny President Barack Obama sole negotiating authority over a sweeping new trans-pacific trade agreement on Friday afternoon.
Reps. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, and Bruce Poliquin, a Republican, were members of the majority in a 302-126 to deny the so-called “fast track” toward the trade deal.
Fast-track authority would have allowed Obama to negotiate the deal himself. Congress would still have had to approve the trade agreement, but would not have been allowed to amend or filibuster the deal.
House Democrats and some House Republicans, such as Poliquin, opposed fast-track, saying previous free trade deals had hurt American manufacturing, and insisting that Congress play a role in shaping any new agreements.
Pingree said trade deals can undermine hard-fought labor and environmental standards that have been adopted over the years here in the United States.
“The proponents of these trade deals want to roll back what they call ‘non-tariff barriers to trade.’ That’s just another way of saying they want to throw important workers’ rights and environmental protections out the window in favor of bigger corporate profits,” she said in a written statement Friday.
Poliquin said in a prepared statement he understands the importance of international trade, but that it was important Maine manufacturers, such as the footwear company New Balance, operate on a level playing field with foreign companies.
“The President will still be able to negotiate trade agreements without fast track authority,” he said. “It’s important that the people’s representatives are able to help shape those agreements to be certain the workers in their districts are treated fairly. In Congress, I will always stand up for Maine families, workers, and the businesses that employ them.”
Already approved by the Senate, fast-track is needed, Obama says, to help him promptly conclude a 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, according to Reuters.
The vote is a pretty big blow to Obama’s trade agenda. But you know what? I’m a Maine politics reporter, not an international trade expert. So if you want more information about this issue, I leave you this cardstack from vox.com.