WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a member of the Senate Finance Committee and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, praised passage by the full Senate Monday of an amendment to Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) that would promote international religious freedom. The amendment, sponsored by Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) and cosponsored by Senator Cardin, who also serves as Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Intolerance for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly, would add a provision to the overall negotiating objectives outlined in TPA requiring the Administration to take religious freedom into account when negotiating trade agreements. This measure is complementary to language currently in TPA, authored by Senator Cardin, which created a principal negotiating objective on good governance, transparency, rule of law, capacity building, and promoting respect for internationally recognized human rights.
“Trading with the United States is a benefit that cannot be taken for granted. The cost of opening new and lucrative markets cannot come at such a high price that we lessen our global efforts to protect the rights of religious minorities and internationally recognized human rights,” said Senator Cardin. “I am proud that the Senate has come together in a bipartisan manner to strengthen the range of human rights and civil liberty protections in TPA that are so important to free societies. Fair trade can be good for the United States, but only if it is done right. Today’s vote says that America will not allow our trading relationships to fall to the lowest common-denominator.”
The Lankford Religious Freedom Amendment (S. Amdt. 1237), approved by the Senate 92-0, creates an overall negotiating objective “to take into account conditions relating to religious freedom of any party to negotiations for a trade agreement with the United States.”