Ryan Discusses Trade and Highways during Telephone Town Hall Meeting
WASHINGTON – This week, First District Congressman Paul Ryan held a telephone town hall meeting with residents of Rock and Walworth County to take questions on important issues facing Congress. During the call, he was asked explain his recent work to pass trade promotion authority (TPA) legislation through Congress. He also took time to discuss the current state of the Highway Trust Fund and federal infrastructure.
In addition to listening sessions held throughout the First Congressional District, Congressman Ryan will hold telephone town hall meetings with constituents throughout the year to hear their concerns and answer their questions about federal issues.
Excerpts from Congressman Ryan’s responses during this week’s telephone town hall meeting follow.
A Better TPA
What trade promotion authority does is it creates a process under which Congress considers any trade agreement that the administration might negotiate. In the past, they used to call this ‘fast track,’ and in the past I don’t think they did it the right way. Because the president—whoever the president was—would go out and negotiate a trade agreement, bring it to Congress really fast, and then Congress would vote on it up or down—no questions asked. That is not how we’re going to do it this time around.
This trade promotion authority is very different now because we think we need to have a system that has more accountability and more transparency, and we want Congress to have more say-so in how trade agreements are being done. We want to make sure a trade agreement doesn’t hold us to the standards of other countries, which could hurt our businesses and our workers. Instead, we want to get other countries to rise to America’s standards.
One of the reasons why we need to get trade agreements is because 95 percent of the world’s consumers don’t live in America—they live in other countries. And if we want to have good jobs and good wages, if we want to have a good manufacturing sector and a good agricultural sector—which is really important to Wisconsin—we need to open markets to our products. Not so that we outsource and make things in other countries, but so we can make things in America, grow things in America, and send them overseas and sell them overseas.
Part of the problem with trade these days is that all of these other countries are going around the world getting better trade agreements, and that ends up denying America access to these markets. One example is Asia. If we get a TPP that’s good—and we reserve judgment until we see the agreement, because it hasn’t even been negotiated yet—a good TPP says to these Asian countries, ‘You give us equal access to your markets that we give you to ours. You give us fair trade, a level playing field, so that we can make things in America [and] sell them overseas.’ That’s what we’re trying to get, because one of the problems that we have already is that we already give these countries a lot of access to our markets.
TPA gives Congress the ability to dictate how trade agreements work, it gives Congress the final say on trade agreements, and it gives the public access to see what’s in these agreements before we even take a vote on them.
HIGHWAY TRUST FUND
We Can’t Tax Our Way Out of This Problem
By having lowering energy costs, you make American manufacturers more competitive, which leads to more manufacturing jobs. And the problem for the gas tax as a funding resource for the highway trust fund is that it’s a dwindling revenue source. And you really can’t really keep raising taxes to keep up with that fact. And what I mean when I say that is look at engine technology. Just look at engine technology, or look at how many miles to the gallon you got on a car that you bought 20 years ago versus the miles per gallon you get on your car today. We’re far more efficient, our engines are more efficient, and some of our engines don’t even use gas. And what’s happening is we don’t pay nearly as much in gas taxes as we used to, so you have a huge drop in revenues going to the Highway Trust Fund, for good reason. We can’t just tax our way out of this problem.