"I will continue to review the available information concerning each individual trade agreement, but I will not vote to sacrifice American jobs to benefit another nation. I will only support new trade agreements that strengthen and grow the American workforce," Manchin said.
Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., has been among the most vocal Congressional critics of legislation granting "fast track" authority to the White House. During a recent labor roundtable forum in Fairmont, McKinley made it clear he opposes the TPP.
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., did not respond to a request for her views about the proposed trade agreements. Last July, she was one of 167 members of Congress who signed a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative about a specific part of the TPP negotiations, regarding textiles from Vietnam.
As for the TTIP, the Obama administration formally notified Congress of its intention to negotiate the pact with the European Union last March.
Speaking at the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland on June 17, Obama said the TTIP "is going to be a priority of mine and my administration."
The agreement would include 24 countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
The European Commission, negotiating the TTIP with the U.S., believes the agreement "aims at removing trade barriers in a wide range of economic sectors to make it easier to buy and sell goods and services between the EU and the U.S."
The commission argues TTIP would reduce unfair regulations.
"On top of cutting tariffs across all sectors, the EU and the U.S. want to tackle barriers behind the customs border - such as differences in technical regulations, standards and approval procedures.
"These often cost unnecessary time and money for companies who want to sell their products on both markets."
A July 13 report from the Congressional Research Service notes that members of Congress, and others, hold different views about the agreement.
"Supporters of the TTIP view the agreement as an opportunity to boost transatlantic economic growth and jobs by eliminating or reducing costly tariff and non-tariff barriers....
"Trade skeptics, however, assert that trade liberalization can lead to an inequitable distribution of costs and benefits, including import competition for specific U.S. economic sectors and adverse employment effects."
The British Embassy in Washington and two associated groups released a report in September entitled "TTIP and the Fifty States: Jobs and Growth form Coast to Coast."
The report predicted that approving TTIP would create 4,000 new jobs in West Virginia and "contribute significantly to the state's future economic growth." The state's coal, petroleum and gas industries sent more than $3.1 billion in exports to Europe in 2012.
The report did not analyze any possible job losses related to trade under the proposed agreement.
Randy Moore, subdistrict director for the United Steelworkers of America in West Virginia, said steel is one of many industries that could be threatened by the free trade agreements.
"We are facing some great concerns right now with the TPP. That is NAFTA on steroids," Moore said last month. "If TPP is enacted, it could be the end of the steel industry of the United States."
Moore believes the TPP will also hurt other industries, such as the aluminum industry, which operates plants in Ravenswood.
Chinese metal workers get paid a small fraction of what American workers make.
"There is a unionization effort going on in China right now," Moore said. "The wages are creeping up. But it is too little, too late to help us."
For many years, the United States was the world's top steel producer. By 2012, the U.S. ranked a distant third, behind China and Japan. Steel production was 716.5 million tons in China, 107.2 million tons in Japan and 88.7 million tons in the U.S., according to the World Steel Association.
In 2012, the U.S. exported 13.6 million tons and imported 31.5 million tons of steel -- more than any other country.
The steel mill in Weirton illustrates the problems: employment at the Weirton mill dropped from 14,000 in 1975, when it was operated by National Steel, to 2,100 by 2005.
When ArcelorMittal took over in November 2005, it cut employment to 1,300 workers. By 2011, employment dropped to 935 workers.
During those years, labor productivity improved dramatically. The time to produce a ton of steel dropped from more than 10 hours in the early 1980s to two hours by 2006, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.
But high productivity has still not enabled American steelworkers to compete with their Chinese counterparts, Moore said.
"I don't know how the American people can be so blinded by these social and economic issues," Moore said. "The federal government is destroying the middle class. If this Trans-Pacific Agreement goes through, what little bit of the middle class is left will be hurt.
"Twenty years ago we fought against NAFTA. Ross Perot was right. People made fun of him. But he was right," he said. "The middle class is leaving this country."
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.