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Tuesday November 21, 2017
Posted: May 29, 2015

Poliquin still noncommittal on ‘fast-track’ trade deal as vote approaches

Up Country

It’s still unclear where U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin will land when the House of Representatives votes on giving President Barack Obama approval to “fast-track” a trade deal with Pacific countries.

A bill that would give Obama authority to expedite negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership with Japan and 10 other Pacific Rim nations was passed by the U.S. Senate last Friday, but it faces a tougher road in a June vote expected in the House, where most Democrats and some conservative Republicans are teaming up to oppose the deal.

The Republican from Maine’s 2nd District is in an interesting spot on the issue: Most in his party back the Democratic president, but shoemaker New Balance, which employs 900 in his district, says it could increase financial pressure to send those jobs overseas. At an April visit to New Balance’s Norridgewock factory, Poliquin didn’t give a position on fast-track, saying only that he was “still studying” the issue and that American workers and companies “must compete on the same level playing field as everybody else around the world.”

Supporters, including Republican leaders, say exports will be boosted by the deal and the White House calls it “the most progressive trade deal the world has ever seen.” However, many aren’t buying it. Critics, including labor unions, have blamed past agreement for job losses in Maine and other traditionally manufacturing-heavy areas, and Matt Schlobohm, executive director of the Maine AFL-CIO, said members are lobbying Poliquin to reject the bill.

If he backs fast-track, Poliquin will almost certainly be the only one in Maine’s delegation to do so: It passed the Senate without support from independent Angus King and Republican Susan Collins, while U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a 1st District Democrat, is opposed to it.

Collins could give Poliquin a political path to follow: In a statement afterward, she said the agreement “would penalize companies like New Balance that have remained committed to American manufacturing.” But Poliquin isn’t shutting the door, with spokesman Michael Byerly saying he’s reviewing the legislation, meeting with businesspeople, Mainers and other parties to discuss it.

“He will want to take a very close look at the amendments that will be introduced on the House floor,” Byerly said. “Congressman Poliquin has often said that he has concerns on agreements which could adversely affect jobs in Maine.”

 

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