Let’s not confuse Fast Track trade authority (TPA) with “free trade” legislation such as TPP. It is possible to support one and oppose the other. Organizations which oppose Fast Track hoping to block TPP may do the public a disservice.
According to the Bloomberg report cited, “Congressional leaders who oversee trade policy introduced legislation today that would give President Barack Obama the fast-track authority he is seeking to enact three of the world’s largest accords.”
The Obama administration is seeking trade-promotion authority to smooth congressional passage of trade deals, including one being negotiated with a group of 11 Pacific region nations and another with the 28-nation European Union. Those pacts, to create the world’s largest free-trade zones, would link regions with about $44 trillion in annual economic output. The U.S. is also negotiating a services-trade agreement with a group of nations that would cover about half of the world’s economy.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp of Michigan joined leaders of the Senate Finance Committee to offer legislation on so-called trade-promotion authority, which subjects trade deals to an up-or-down vote by Congress.
“The TPA legislation we are introducing today will make sure that these trade deals get done, and get done right,” Democratic Senator Max Baucus of Montana, the Senate Finance Committee Chairman, said in a statement. “This is our opportunity to tell the administration — and our trading partners — what Congress’s negotiating priorities are.”
Baucus’s bill, co-sponsored by Republicans Camp and Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, updates labor and environmental protections, adds provisions to guard intellectual property from cyber theft and for the first time seeks to prevent currency manipulation by trading partners, according to a fact sheet. It also ensures that members of Congress have access to the negotiating texts and lets them participate in the talks.
“This legislation strips Congress of its defining democratic characteristic — its check-and-balance structure,” Michael Brune, executive director of the San Francisco-based Sierra Club, said today in a statement. He said lawmakers should be able to fully debate and amend trade deals.
I can’t agree with Michael Brune:
- There is no reason to believe Congress capable of contributing to trade negotiations: better that the United States speak with a single voice.
- If Congress proposes amendments, the likely result would be a mish-mash of loopholes for special interests such as those in the recently enacted Omnibus Spending Bill.
If we are to have reasonable trade agreements, Fast Track legislation may be indispensable.
In a WETM feature, Tom Reed’s spokespersons muddle the issue:
Congressman Reed’s campaign says … the passage of a Trade Promotion Authority agreement, or TPA, which is what the protesters are calling a “fast track”, would stop the Obama Administration’s closed door meetings and achieve the same transparency results that the DeLauro-Miller letter calls for.
I don’t think so — the Delauro-Miller letter, cited below, goes on at great length. It is unlikely that the Baucus bill, S. 1900, is equivalent. Further, Rep. Sander Levin, D-MI, has proposed a rival TPA bill which may or may not address all of the concerns in the Delauro-Miller letter.
According to Congressman Reed’s campaign, every president since Franklin Roosevelt has had trade negotiating authority under a TPA.
Whether it is the Baucus bill, the Levin bill, or some other proposal, TPA authority enacted in 2014 will likely have little to do with whatever authority may have been granted to FDR — Tom misleads us by suggesting that the issues and answers haven’t changed in decades. When Tom writes “what the protesters are calling a ‘fast track,'” he links opponents of Fast Track legislation with an image of protesters — a smear. Many, including the supporters listed in the Bloomberg article, refer to what Tom calls TPA as Fast Track.
Supporters of fast-track authority including a coalition of about 160 groups, led by organizations including the Business Roundtable, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Association of Manufacturers.
© William Hungerford – January 2014