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.

Filed Under: congress, mandates, tpp, trade promotion authority, ustr

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  1. identicon
    John Thacker, 8 Mar 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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