The U.S. Constitution clearly states, “The Congress shall have power to … regulate commerce with foreign nations.” Congress has a responsibility to assert this right and forge consensus on trade and globalization.
In order to succeed in the global economy, it is necessary to move beyond stale arguments of protectionism vs. free trade.
To do so, we must recognize that workers’ rights, consumer and intellectual protections, and environmental safeguards must be just as enforceable as the protection of the economic interests of investors.
The overwhelming vote last week to slow down “fast track” trade authority is a clear indication that it’s time for Republicans and Democrats to work together to negotiate a better deal for the American people.
Today, driven by a new technological revolution, national markets are being transformed into global networks of finance, production and distribution. Markets — for goods, money and even labor — are integrating across borders beyond the reach of national legislative bodies.
Globalization and the opening of markets have often resulted in lower prices for consumers and the opportunity for a better life for millions around the planet.
However, all too often, the benefits of globalization have overwhelmingly flowed to the most affluent and powerful, while the costs have been shouldered by ordinary citizens in both developed and developing nations.
We can do better. We believe that America, and indeed the world, can innovate in ways that will lift up the workers who have been left behind by globalization. In so doing, we must prepare our people, our economies and our environment for the future. These issues are interlinked.
The climate crisis presents a challenge to the survival of our planet, but it also presents an opportunity to create a clean energy economy. Investing in a green economy will result in clean energy jobs for the many workers who have been left behind by globalization.
Recognizing this trend, the Democratic Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. It created an Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Worker Training Program to prepare a quality workforce for clean energy jobs. It was a solution as local as neighborhoods from rural areas to inner cities, and as global as the planet.
Our pre-eminence in clean energy is essential to maintaining America as No. 1 in the global economy, and we must protect the intellectual property rights of entrepreneurs.
We must ensure that trading partners play by the rules and uphold their responsibility to their international obligations.
American workers have followed the rules, playing an essential role in building the global economy. Our job is to ensure they have fair and sustainable opportunities by forging international consensus on the values on which our economic policy must be built.
We must recognize that a strong middle class is vital to a democracy. We must work together to expand globalization’s benefits to all people of the world, and to lessen its harmful impacts.
As we look to the future, it is clear that the debate on the trade authority is probably the last of its kind. The intense debate of the past few weeks has further convinced me that we need a new paradigm.
I suggest a new global engagement on trade — an engagement that enables voices from all aspects of the world’s economies to be heard.
This could be accomplished under the auspices of the United Nations, or in a new conclave created to give voice to representatives of public, private and non-profit organizations. We must give workers more leverage and have more open discussion, with greater transparency and stronger accountability than the World Trade Organization or other trade negotiations.
Globalization goes beyond trade. Our efforts must go beyond business as usual and create a new model for trade agreements.
We must think entrepreneurially — think in new and different ways about how to grow the economy and workers’ paychecks as we protect our planet and ensure our security.
Since the Constitution has given Congress the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, we must work together in collaboration with the president to achieve these goals. Together, we can usher in a new era of prosperity and forge an economy that works for everyone.
Nancy Pelosi, the first female Speaker of the House, is the House Democratic Leader and has represented San Francisco in Congress for 28 years.
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