USTR Wants 'Trade Promotion Authority' In An Effort To Ram TPP Through Congress With Little Debate

from the so-that's-how-they'll-do-it... dept

While we've noted that the White House and the USTR have insisted that ACTA is not a treaty and does not require Congressional ratification (something that many, many observers believe is wrong), with the followup TPP agreement, there's no question that it's a broad agreement that will require Congressional approval. But, now we know how the USTR is hoping to streamline that process as much as possible, too.

AndyB points us to the news that Ron Kirk, the USTR, has directly asked Congress to provide the administration with "trade promotion authority," which more or less abdicates Congress's ability to substantially question or modify any international agreement. Trade promotion authority basically forces Congress to vote on any trade agreement put forth by the administration within a very short period of time (90 days) and denies them the ability to offer any amendments (i.e., to do their job). The "reasoning" behind this is to give the administration/USTR authority to negotiate with foreign countries, such that there aren't any questions in those countries of whether or not the US will actually agree to the deal, or if they'll try to change a deal once negotiated.

And, of course, the main reason for seeking this trade promotion authority... is to ram through the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) by the end of the year.

But, such a provision is basically Congress giving up its powers. There's a reason why Congress is supposed to ratify treaties: and it's to keep the executive branch from negotiating something horrible and having us be bound to it. It's crazy to think that Congress would just give up this important check and balance on the executive branch.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 4:53am

    cant imagine why this wasn't mentioned when Senator Wyden questioned Ron Kirk recently. more underhand shenanigans going on yet again!

     

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  2.  
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    Designerfx (profile), Mar 8th, 2012 @ 5:07am

    Re:

    Kirk's not even part of the USTR. Nice, huh.

     

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  3.  
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    Designerfx (profile), Mar 8th, 2012 @ 5:09am

    Re: Re:

    ahh, my bad. wrong Kirk.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 5:12am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Were you thinking of the captain?

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 5:15am

    We need to raise more awareness about TPP.

    Go on, Techdirt. Up the anti-TPP game! :D

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 5:40am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    oh captain, my captain.

     

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  7.  
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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Mar 8th, 2012 @ 5:44am

    How can the USTR be so cynical?
    They come off as Bond-villains, all that's missing is an monocle and a cat. They already have the schemes, and they seem to be the Constitutions arch-enemy.

    And for what? A perceived bit of extra security in copyright, that's not even a paper tiger.

     

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  8.  
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    Rekrul, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 5:45am

    If Obama manages to get re-elected, he'll probably try to pass an executive order that allows him to simply overrule congress whenever he feels like it. After all, he already thinks he has that power.

     

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  9.  
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    John Thacker, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 5:54am

    I don't view Trade Promotion Authority (aka "Fast Track") in the same level of category as not submitting a treaty to Congress at all. Entirely bypassing Congress, such as being done with ACTA, is incredibly dangerous. This is much less so.

    First, the Senate explicitly votes not to consider certain amendments. That's an entirely normal part of Senate business. The Senate majority (and basically the Senate majority leader, currently Harry Reid) already explicitly determines what things will and won't be brought to the floor and given time. To some degree that's necessary, because there's an infinite universe of possible amendments and slightly different votes.

    Second, the Senate still has the ability to vote down the treaty or agreement in question. It's extremely important that the Senate is still able to actually reject the treaty.

    Third, the foregone amendments almost surely wouldn't have any effect anyway because other countries would have to agree with them to give them any force. Adopting an amendment that supposedly fixes the problems with, say, TPP, could actually be worse, because it could quiet critics and cause TPP to get passed, but the amendment would really just be window-dressing since they would never get enforced. Better to reject the whole thing than sign up with objections that end up being ignored.

    Fourth, even with Trade Promotion Authority, some amendments are still germane, such as amendments that change US law in ways that don't specifically contradict the agreement. As above, the ones that do specifically contradict the agreement will likely be ignored.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 5:54am

    "There's a reason why Congress is supposed to ratify treaties: and it's to keep the executive branch from negotiating something horrible and having us be bound to it."

    Congress has already negotiated many horrible things. 95+ year copy protection lengths with constant retroactive extensions coupled by a one sided penalty structure in favor of IP extremists does plenty of harm, as I have noted in the comments over and over.

    Our laws make it too legally risky and expensive for many restaurants and other venues to host independent performers or even for bakeries to allow children to make custom pictures on their birthday cakes. and the FCC has passed broadcasting monopolies that make it nearly impossible for independents to get their content distributed and gain the necessary recognition to gain a living. and government established broadcasting and cableco monopolies have served to keep us ignorant.

    It's not like Congress does any better at passing non-horrible laws.

     

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  11.  
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    Ed Allen, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 6:24am

    Re:

    This is the same "we are not bound by ACTA bullshit" that the USTR spouted for months only to admit that the folks saying that was not true were right all along.

    The assholes, whoever they work for, are not people we want to give even a little more power to.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 6:25am

    Re:

    but ... but ... but ... national security!!!

    (some lie that turned out to be).

     

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  13.  
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    Designerfx (profile), Mar 8th, 2012 @ 6:33am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    haha. nah. Mixed up Mark Kirk with Ron Kirk.

     

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  14.  
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    Pixelation, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 7:30am

    A pony

    Ron Kirk said, "We'd like (the legislation) to address both TPP and then any other ambitions we might have,"

    And I want a pony...

     

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  15.  
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    Almost Anonymous (profile), Mar 8th, 2012 @ 7:49am

    One saving grace

    Fortunately (in this case), people in power very rarely choose to voluntarily give up any part of that power, so I really doubt Congress would agree to Ron Kirk's proposal.

     

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  16.  
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    JT, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 10:27am

    Not a Treaty Eh?

    "While we've noted that the White House and the USTR have insisted that ACTA is not a treaty..."

    ACTA = Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement

    trea·ty
       [tree-tee] Show IPA
    noun, plural -ties.
    1. a formal agreement between two or more states in reference to peace, alliance, commerce, or other international relations.

    2. the formal document embodying such an international agreement.

    3. any agreement or compact.

    Oh, and just for fun, Definition of Agreement too.

    agreement (əˈɡriːmənt) — n

    1. the act of agreeing

    2. a settlement, esp one that is legally enforceable; covenant; treaty

    3. a contract or document containing such a settlement

    4. the state of being of the same opinion; concord; harmony

    5. the state of being similar or consistent; correspondence; conformity

    6. grammar Also called: concord the determination of the inflectional form of one word by some grammatical feature, such as number or gender, of another word, esp one in the same sentence

    7.collective agreement See national agreement

    I think that just about fucks their argument up

     

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  17.  
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    Violated (profile), Mar 8th, 2012 @ 10:33am

    Re:

    Yes well now Congress has realised that the public is deeply unhappy with what is going on here.

    Even in this SOPA/PIPA protest and blackout day it was interesting to see elected Members of Congress try to balance entertainment industry lobbying funds against not making the people who voted for them angry.

    It seems Obama and Biden took the easy way out of that one by asking the Tech Industry for lobbying funds to protect the Internet from such abuse.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 11:21am

    So what if they do get some sort of fast track on international agreements? It appears the rest of the world is waking up that USTR agreements don't benefit them - and an international agreement is squat without anyone else signing.

     

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  19.  
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    in ther words, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 3:29pm

    Re:

    the only way to be free nowadays is to be a criminal.

    all of a sudden i dont have such a bad view of criminals.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 4:28pm

    Re:

    Well they've already got blinders on to shut out any annoying facts or whatnot people try and present to them, and monocles just don't quite work with those.

    As for cats, even the most stuck up ones refuse to have anything to do with these people.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Shmerl, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 8:33pm

    Didn't Palpatine and co. started as republic? We know how it developed.

     

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  22.  
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    Bergman (profile), Mar 9th, 2012 @ 3:41am

    Short of passing a Constitutional amendment, CAN Congress give up powers that the Constitution says only Congress has?

    And if Congress gives up such a power without an amendment giving it to someone else, wouldn't that mean no one has it?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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