CEDAR RAPIDS — In the race for the U.S. House in Iowa’s 1st District, Republican Rep. Rod Blum and Democratic challenger Monica Vernon agree on the importance of trade.
That’s where the agreement ends.
Vernon, a former Cedar Rapids business owner again Monday voiced her opposition to President Barack Obama’s 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership proposal that he says will open doors for made-in-America products.
That puts her at odds with Blum, a Dubuque business owner who said one in five jobs in Iowa depends on trade.
It’s not that she’s against trade, Vernon told The Gazette Editorial Board. The 20-county northeast Iowa district that includes Cedar Rapids, Dubuque, Cedar Falls, Waterloo and Marshalltown “relies on trade.”
“We grow things and we make things. We know how to build a lot of stuff,” the former Cedar Rapids City Council member said. “Trade is really important. My thing is that we need fair trade.”
In positioning herself with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Vernon said TPP, as written, “harms our country, hurts our district.”
Vernon is willing to consider future trade pacts that spread the benefit to more Americans. Although data show the TPP would be a net gain for the country, “it lands in the hands of a very, very few.” she said, “In fact, it’s negative for the majority of people … up to 95 percent.”
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In promoting the TPP, the Obama administration said the $2.34 trillion in goods and services sold abroad result in more higher-paying jobs because companies that export pay up to 18 percent more than companies that don’t.
However, Vernon said she doesn’t want another “NAFTA situation that took away so many factories, so many jobs and really incented companies to offshore work and offshore all of that.”
She wants to “stop incenting corporations from doing inversions (and) stop allowing that sort of thing.”
Instead, she wants to level the global playing field for American workers and business. That would include cutting red tape that businesses complain about.