After New Hampshire Rep. Frank Guinta announced his opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement Wednesday, his District 1 seat challengers immediately attacked his “flip-flopped” free-trade stance.
But Guinta says he’s not getting a fair shake.
“While I believe in free trade, it must also be fair trade. So I oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will kill good jobs,” the incumbent Republican representative said in a video to constituents.
The TPP, a trade deal involving 12 Pacific Rim countries, has been a hot button issue in the 2016 presidential election. Republican nominee Donald Trump has criticized the deal, along with Sen. Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton initiated negotiations for TPP during her time as U.S. secretary of state, but has since opposed the deal, which is still supported by President Barack Obama.
In June 2015, Congress passed the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), allowing a “fast-track” approval of the agreement. Congress is subject to a straight up-or-down vote on the deal without any amendments or filibusters. TPP could come up for a vote in Congress during the lame-duck session following the November elections, but it is not expected to pass.
Guinta voted for the TPA legislation last year, saying in a statement to WMUR that the TPA “holds the Obama administration accountable to both the American people and Congress and ensures all trade agreements are secure, effective and in the best interest of the United States.”
After he released the video coming out against TPP, the lone Democratic candidate looking to unseat him railed against his stance.
“While Frank Guinta deceives voters in whatever way he thinks will save his campaign, I have always been steadfast in my opposition to both TPA and TPP,” said Democratic candidate Carol Shea-Porter in a statement.
“I do believe in trade, but it needs to be fair trade. The TPP does not meet that standard,” she said. “The TPA took away legislators’ ability to impact or change anything in the trade agreement, which I believe gives too much power to the Executive Branch.”
She also pointed to a letter sent to Obama signed by Guinta and 15 other lawmakers in March 2015, encouraging him to make the TPA a priority.
“There is great potential in the negotiations now underway for the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” they wrote in the letter. “We are committed to working with you to pass bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) to set the stage for concluding the best possible deal in each of our ongoing trade negotiations.”
Guinta responded saying it is not accurate to compare the TPA to the TPP.
“There’s also no comparison with Trade Promotion Authority, a procedure, not a deal,” he said in a statement to NH Journal.
“In any case, I’m not obligated to vote for every trade deal, especially if I believe it harms my constituents,” he said. “With the economy very weak right now, it’s not the right time for a big influx of foreign competition. There are a number of other ways to spur growth and jobs — repealing Obamacare and other taxes and regulations that punish American workers, for example.”
The New Hampshire Union Leader published a scathing editorial about his stance titled, “Frank’s frivolous free trade flip-flop.”
“Much like Hillary Clinton, Frank Guinta was for free trade agreements before he was against them,” the editors wrote. “Guinta would throw away America’s economic and diplomatic interests. This is panicked pandering to protectionism. The only job Guinta cares about protecting is his own.”
They pointed to three trade agreements with Korea, Panama and Colombia that Guinta voted for in 2011 as evidence of his “flip-flop.”
But Guinta said that those three trade agreements are very different from the TPP agreement currently in Congress, especially since they were first negotiated under the administration of former President George W. Bush.
“There’s a huge difference between trade deals that the the Bush Administration negotiated over a decade ago and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a hurried, multilateral deal involving a dozen countries,” he said in a statement to NH Journal. “So while, yes, I generally agree with free trade, it must be fair trade, and there’s no comparison between a few prior deals and TPP.”
Bedford business Rich Ashooh, Guinta’s Republican primary challenger in September, also had few words to say about Guinta and the TPP. Ashooh said he does not approve of the TPA, but would vote for the TPP agreement.
“He [Guinta] voted for ‘fast track’ and I wouldn’t have done that,” Ashooh said in a New Hampshire Union Leader interview on Wednesday. “Unfortunately, now that it’s done and their only choice is yes or no, I would vote to approve,” he said. “TPP is not as good as it should be, but in this case an imperfect trade deal is better than not having any trade deal.”