Many In Congress Opposed To Fast Track Authority: An Obsolete Concept For An Obsolete Trade Negotiation
from the get-modern dept
We just noted how Congress had introduced a bill to give up its own Constitutional powers, abdicating them to the administration and the USTR to give it the full power to commit the US to massive trade agreements like the TPP and TAFTA/TTIP, and blocking Congress’ ability to oversee the process and make sure all interests are represented. Instead, if fast track authority is granted, Congress will only be able to give a “yes or no” vote on the agreements, and once the USTR comes back with an agreement, the pressure will be immense to vote yes. Thankfully, many in Congress are already signalling that they’re not at all comfortable with abdicating their responsibilities. On the House side, Reps. Rosa Delauro, Louise Slaughter and George Miller put out a statement decrying the inevitable end result of this process, specifically highlighting the fact that these modern trade agreements cover a hell of a lot more than “trade.”
Fast Track procedures would allow the President to sign a potential Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other free trade agreements before Congress votes to approve them even though the Constitution gives Congress exclusive authority over trade. The process would also guarantee the pacts could come to the floor without giving Members of Congress the opportunity to amend them despite the fact these agreements will include binding obligations that touch upon a wide swath of non-trade policy matters under the authority of Congress.
“For too long, bad trade deals have allowed corporations to ship good American jobs overseas, and wages, benefits, workplace protections and quality of life have all declined as a result,” DeLauro, Miller and Slaughter said in a joint statement. “That is why there is strong bipartisan opposition to enabling the Executive Branch to ram through far-reaching, secretly negotiated trade deals like the TPP that extend well beyond traditional trade matters.
As their statement also notes, “Our constituents did not send us to Washington to ship their jobs overseas, and Congress will not be a rubber stamp for another flawed trade deal that will hang the middle class out to dry.”
They’re not the only ones in the House to be concerned. A number of other powerful House members are not at all happy about the proposal and looking to kill it or change it — including Nancy Pelosi. Then there’s also Rep. Sander Levin who has spoken out against fast track. As that article notes, without Levin’s support, Fast Track may be in trouble.
An even stronger condemnation of the attempt comes from the Senate side, where Rep. Levin’s younger brother, Senator Carl Levin debunks the talking point we’ve already been hearing from copyright maximalist lobbyists, that “fast track authority has been used for decades and it’s no big deal.” As Levin points out, in the past, fast track was used for very different kinds of trade agreements. Narrow ones that were actually about trade, not the kind of monstrosity like the TPP which has little to do with trade, and plenty to do with changing laws around the globe.
The 2002 TPA became utilized mostly in negotiating single nation trade agreements affecting a relatively small portion of our economy. What the U.S is now engaged in is negotiating major multi-party agreements, including with 11 Pacific nations and with the entire European Union, affecting a huge percentage of the U.S. and the global economy.
Levin further points out that without real transparency, any fast track authority should be a nonstarter:
USTR must make available to all Members of Congress and all staff with the necessary security clearance the text of the negotiations, including the proposals of our trading partners. We must also have a much more effective stakeholder advisory committee process than we do today so that the sectoral and functional advisory committees are representative of all industry, labor, agricultural, or services interests (including small business interests) in the sector or functional areas concerned. These private sector advisory committees must have access to the negotiating text. Finally, a new TPA will require USTR to publicly release summaries of its negotiating proposals and to provide opportunities for public comment.
As we noted in our original post, not a single Democrat was willing to co-sponsor the House version of the bill that their own President wants. And reports are suggesting that this may scuttle the whole thing, as Republicans begin to wonder why they’re out there not only helping President Obama against his own party, but relinquishing Congress’s own Constitutional authority in the process. It’s good to see a large number of folks in Congress suddenly wondering why they should be giving up their oversight over international trade on an agreement so big.