149 Iowa legislators endorsed ‘Obamatrade’ component

TPPBy Bob Eschliman


Earlier this year, during a moment of feel-good bipartisanship, the Iowa General Assembly voted unanimously to encourage adoption of a key component of President Obama’s trade agenda.

While it isn’t clear whether or not legislators knew precisely what they were voting on, the fact still remains that they endorsed a course of action a majority of Americans oppose. According to video of the votes taken, no legislator raised his or her voice in opposition to the measure.

The votes in question took place on Thursday, March 26, when the House of Representatives and Senate each welcomed Director General Calvin Chen-huan Ho of the Taipei Economic & Cultural Office in Chicago to the Iowa Statehouse. His arrival was billed as an event meant to showcase the “sister state relationship” between Iowa and Taiwan.

During that event, the House and Senate unanimously adopted resolutions calling on Congress and the federal government to enact an investment and trade deal that would be beneficial to both Taiwan and Iowa.

The House was the first to take action with a unanimous vote on House Resolution 26. The Senate followed suit a few minutes later by unanimously adopting Senate Resolution 21. Resolutions are typically adopted by voice vote.

CLICK HERE to see the House vote unanimously on HR 26 (advance to 6:42). CLICK HERE to see the Senate vote unanimously on SR 21 (advance to 19:30).

The text of both resolutions included the following statement:

“Whereas, negotiations for a bilateral investment agreement between Taiwan and the United States are an important step toward further strengthening bilateral trade and paving the way for entering into a free trade agreement between our two nations thereby increasing Iowa’s exports to Taiwan and creating bilateral investment and technical collaboration through tariff reduction and other trade facilitation measures.”

According to leaked documents, those are elements of the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership — part of what has been called “Obamatrade” — that is currently being considered in Congress. Following adoption of SR 21, its floor manager, state Sen. Bill Dotzler (D-Waterloo) received unanimous consent to withdraw an earlier version of the resolution, Senate Resolution 19.

The House also had an earlier version of HR 26, House Resolution 15. The biggest difference between the versions that were adopted (HR 26, SR 21) and those that were originally drafted (HR 15, SR 19) is the following statement:

“[Taiwan] applauded the United States’ announcement of its intent to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the proposed 21st century trade agreement between the United States and 11 other Asia-Pacific Rim countries.”

It is not clear why the resolutions were changed to remove the TPP reference. All three resolutions, however, concluded with the following call to action:

“Be it resolved … [the General Assembly] reaffirms its commitment to the strong and deepening sister-city and sister-state relationships between Taiwan and the State of Iowa, its support for Taiwan’s efforts to secure the signing of a bilateral investment agreement with the United States, and its support for Taiwan’s appropriate participation in international organizations that impact Taiwan’s health, safety, and well-being; and

“Be it further resolved, that the [Secretary of the Senate and Chief Clerk of the House are] hereby directed to send a copy of this resolution to United States Secretary of State John F. Kerry, President Ma Ying-jeou of the Republic of China (Taiwan), Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Chicago, Illinois.”

Taiwan has not made it a secret that it wants to be included in TPP. In fact, it all but advertises it on a website it created to promote relations with the U.S.

Taiwan has been aided in this effort by the American Legislative Exchange Council — or ALEC — which drafted a “model resolution” very similar to HR 26 and SR 21 in 2013. Other states that have considered the resolution include Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

According to the House and Senate journals for March 26, all 100 members of the House were present for the vote on HR 26. Only state Sen. Rick Bertrand (R-Sioux City) was absent for the vote on SR 21.