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.

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Comments on “Many In Congress Opposed To Fast Track Authority: An Obsolete Concept For An Obsolete Trade Negotiation”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

That’s for the courts to decide, not Congress.

Congress should be aware of any powers and limitations placed on it by the constitution. The courts should only be invoked when congress makes a mistake. If constitutionality of laws is solely left up to the court, many unconstitutional laws can be enacted and enforced until such time as a legal challenge is brought and succeeds.

silverscarcat (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Not how it works, Congress is supposed to craft laws and rules for the people, most of the time to get greater benefits to their constituents, but for the people at large.

President decides if something that lands on his desk is worth having as a law.

The Courts are supposed to decide whether or not the laws, as written, follow the Constitution or not.

Eldakka (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

…many unconstitutional laws can be enacted and enforced until such time as a legal challenge is brought…

That is how the system works.

That is why the NSA/Government are saying that the NSA hasn’t done anything illegal, because they haven’t. They’ve acted within the law (or at least the secret internpretations of the law). Unless (hopefully ‘until’) the Supreme Court rules those laws as unconstitutional, then technically they are correct, what they are doing is not illegal.

That One Guy (profile) says:

A good first step but...

Words are nice, even more so when they’re words pointing out that the USTR’s ‘talking points’ are rubbish and those in congress and the senate aren’t buying them, but what really matters is how they vote, and I can only imagine some very powerful, very rich interests are going to be putting some heavy pressure on their ’employees’ in both houses to get both FTA, and TPP passed.

Should be interesting to see which comes out on top when it comes time to vote.

anonymouse says:

Re: A good first step but...

You point out exactly what i was thinking, is congress maybe just wanting to up the bribes they are going to get to pass this into law. Seriously the whole system sucks and lobbying should not be allowed unless every action from money donations to any other donations are printed in national newspapers for everyone to be able to see how much their senators get in return for passing laws.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: A good first step but...

Lobbying is not a problem. At its roots lobbying is the way for anyone to approach the government officials with ideas or information.
Now, as soon as some lobbyists are more than others and money can get you advantages, then we are talking a big problem, but the problem is the incentives and structures, not the lobbying.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: A good first step but...

Lobbying is not a problem.

Lobbying IS a problem, it distracts representatives from representing their constituents. It also inserts a largely unelected set of people between the citizens and the politicians who claim to represent the citizen while in reality pushing a narrow agenda. Lobbyists always push an ‘extremist’ view, which makes politics a choice between extremes, rather than a balanced approach to problem solving.

Capt ICE Enforcer says:

Additional Clause

Oh do not worry, the USTR will just add an additional clause which references 6 other spots which have nothing to do with any oh it but will result in something like this.

Per section 9.4C, members of congress who voted yes for Fast Track in the Free trade agreement for Tampons will be legally bound to remain in congress to indefinitely without the need of re-election or vote. These members will also recieve a 200% pay increase quarterly to cover the cost of inflation.
So it was written, so it must be done. More pay, less work and responsibilities. Do you really think they would pass it up?

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Additional Clause

That’s why I think anything that impact politicians themselves should be subject to public approval (simple yes/no voting). You know, the Govt would have to actually get things done right to get earnings rises and other benefits. I’d go further than that and have people do biennial polls where the representatives would get evaluated and the ones with low grades would get ditched and replaced by the next in line.

Talk about efficiency. Sure it will never ever happen.

Anonymous Coward says:

‘giving up their oversight over international trade on an agreement so big’

there are four industries that these sort of ‘agreements’ benefit. there are entertainment industries, pharma industries, communications industries and food industries. on top of them, you have the individuals who gain, normally from ‘thankyou payments’ for lobbying hard to get the 4 above industries wants through. what is sad is those lobbyists dont think about anything other than what they will receive personally from the deals, and that goes as far as their own families, both now and in the future. lobbying needs to be stopped permanently! no one from the ordinary people protection agencies can afford to pay lobbyists or to pay ‘incentives’ so the main stake holders in every ‘deal’, in every ‘negotiation’ is never represented, just as in the TTIP/TPP disasters. and as for what those in the USTR say about openness and transparency, lying to themselves may make them feel good but lying to the public should lead to real kickback and shitstorm against them!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Congress needs to get their butts in gear and do their job. As mandated by the US Constitution.

I hope Congress realizes there’s not much more of this country left, to sell. China recently surpassed the United States in total global trading, and is not the #1 trading economy in the world.

Like I said, there’s not much left of this country to sell out on. The US economy has been going downhill for close to two decades now. If “fast track” is passed, then we will be “fast tracking” down the hill at turbo speed!

Anonymous Coward says:

It is outrageous that the more than 600 corporate representatives serving as official U.S. trade advisors have full access to draft TPP texts and privileged input but the U.S. public and the press are locked out. Though the public hasn?t been given access to the negotiating texts, leaked texts have provided insight into what the negotiating parties have agreed upon. Among other troubling provisions, there are the special privileges and benefits for firms that offshore investment and jobs away from the U.S. Many of the provisions are opposed by all the other negotiating countries with only the US in favor.

Only five of the TPP?s 29 chapters deal with traditional trade matters. The rest deal with domestic policies ? from food safety to labor and environmental standards to access to safe and affordable medicines and Internet freedom to government procurement ? so it?s absolutely crucial that Congress maintain its constitutional authority and not delegate it away through Fast Track.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The same can be said about many modern agreements. I refuse to call most of them “trade agreements” for exactly those reasons. As much as Krugman is picky, he described the value of deals like TPP as “economically only having minor effects since the existing tarriffs are already low.”. As much as he is parting the waters, that assessment is spelling dooming for the whole foundation for negotiating them: If the economic benefits are minor, why waste time on them? And further: If the economic effects are minor, why piss people off?

They are letting an occult PPP like USTR where anything but large companies are getting screwed by a ridiculous composition model (16 company committees!, 6 agriculture committees!, 1 labor rights committee, 1 environmental committee, 1 governmental cooperation committee and 1 trade advisory committee with about the same relative power-distribution as the number of committees provide for. Don’t even get me started on the internal compositions…).

Anonymous Coward says:

Recently I have gotten the impression of some sort of shadowy council of very rich corporation heads who gather to talk about how they can change the world for the worse for monetary gain.
It sounds like a bad James Bond movie, but I am starting to think that it is more likely than unlikely. Conspiracies of many kinds, just don’t seem as unlikely as they used to.

Anonymous Coward says:

Many of the congress critters are pissed about the way the USTR has worked negotiations. There’s been this undercurrent about it the last 3 or 4 months of the TPP. This transparency that the USTR has claimed it has doesn’t work for congress any more than it works for the public.

Congress has been reduced to the equivalency of a second class citizen while trying to find out what is being discussed. The reduction in stature isn’t setting well when those with vested interests have an immediate access but every one in congress has to jump through hoops just to have a look see and no one in the public gets any type of heads up.

I think it was high time long ago when these deals started going secret to kill the ability to just slip it through without any one in congress knowing what was really in the proposed treaty.

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