House backs bill to exclude climate change from trade deals

Washington, December 12

As negotiators in Paris worked to finalise a global agreement on climate change, the Republican-controlled House on Friday approved a bill that would block trade deals from being used to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The bill was approved on a 256 to 158 vote. Twenty-four Democrats joined with 232 Republicans to support the bill.

Opponents, mostly Democrats, said the bill sends wrong message as US diplomats meet in Paris with over 190 nations to finalise an agreement to reduce man-made carbon emissions and adapt to rising seas and increasingly extreme weather.

Rep Sander Levin, a Democrat, said the climate provision was inserted by Republicans who oppose action on climate change. Many Republicans in Congress question whether human activities are contributing to global warming.

“The Republican Party of the US may be the only political party anywhere in denial about climate change,” Levin said. “That denial is why this provision ... on climate is before us.”

Supporters said the wide-ranging bill would beef up enforcement of US trade agreements and help prevent counterfeit goods from entering the country. The bill also would make permanent a moratorium that prevents states from taxing access to the internet.

Rep Kevin Brady, the Republican chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said the bill ‘will level the playing field for Americans and also make it easier for them to compete in a global marketplace’.

The provision on climate change ensures greater oversight of executive-branch negotiators who work on international trade agreements, Brady said.

“Trade agreements should not include provisions on immigration or greenhouse gas emissions,” he said, noting that there are other ways for officials to address immigration and global climate change.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said the bill ensures that US trade laws are enforced, that trade is streamlined and efficient and that no trade agreement will change US immigration policy or expand access to visas to enter the country.