Reprinted from Smirking Chimp
The Obama administration is negotiating a huge trade deal. The President promises CEOs he will go against his own party to push its passage. To get this done the corporations are pushing Congress to pass something called Fast Track -- a process that essentially pre-approves trade agreements before Congress even reads the agreements for the first time.
President Obama visited the quarterly meeting of the Business Roundtable Wednesday and told the business leaders he will push Congress to pass the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The path to passage for TPP is Congress approving the Fast Track process ahead of time, and the President is working to get Fast Track approved over Democratic objections.
Fast Track Pre-Approves Unread Trade Agreements
"Fast Track" Trade Promotion Authority is essentially pre-approval of trade agreements before they are completed. By agreeing to use Fast Track Congress sets aside its Constitutional duty to carefully review (and fix) trade deals. Instead, they agree to pass a trade agreement within 90 days of seeing it for the first time; not to amend the agreement in any way, and to give it a straight up-or-down vote, in spite of there having been well over 400 filibusters in the last few years.
For some reason trade deals are given this special waiver from careful attention that no other legislation or treaty receives.
Trade agreements like TPP are negotiated in secret. They are negotiated to favor the interests of giant corporations. Labor, consumer, environmental and other "stakeholder" interests are kept out of the negotiating process. These agreements are not revealed to the public until they are completed.
By requiring a vote within 90 days, the Fast Track process allows the giant corporations that will benefit from a trade deal to launch a massive PR campaign promising jobs and economic growth. The PR campaign will be well-funded, and timed to bring tremendous pressure on Congress in the 90-day period after the treaty is first revealed to the public. (Not unlike the big PR campaign run-up to the Iraq War.) But 90 days from the first read of a massive treaty is not enough time for non-corporate interests to fully evaluate the agreement, and let the public know about potential downsides of the treaty. It guarantees that public-interest groups cannot rally sufficient opposition to stop the train wreck.
Massively-funded and well-timed corporate pressure can accomplish a lot. Ninety days is not enough time to carefully examine the repercussions of these agreements and rally public opposition, if there are things in the agreement that will hurt public interests. And because Congress cannot amend the treaty to fix any problems that are discovered they are faced with scrapping the whole thing or leaving it as-is. This adds additional pressure to let the problems slide by.
So, Fast Track is essentially a vote to pre-approve whatever treaty is agreed on by the negotiators. Why would Congress do this before even knowing what is in the trade agreements? (Hint: $$$$$$$$$ and pressure.)
President Says Pro-Worker Groups Are "Fighting The Last War"
Speaking to the CEOS of the Business Roundtable President Obama said those criticizing trade agreements like TPP are "fighting the last war." Saying essentially that the job-loss horse has already left the barn and isn't coming back, Obama said we should instead look forward.
"I think some of the criticism of what we've been doing on the Trans-Pacific Partnership is groups fighting the last war as opposed to looking forward."
Later he elaborated...
"And there's a half-truth that is magnified I think in the discussions around trade that global competition has contributed to some of that wage stagnation. It's an appealing argument. I think when you look at the numbers, it's actually an incorrect argument that over time, growth, investment, exports all have increased the capacity for working families to improve their economic standing. But I say it's a half-truth because there's no doubt that some manufacturing moved offshore in the wake of China entering the WTO and as a consequence of NAFTA.
"Now, more of those jobs were lost because of automation and capital investment, but there's a narrative there that makes for some tough politics. We have to be able to talk directly to the public about why trade is good for America, good for American businesses and good for American workers. And we have to dispel some of the myths.
"Part of the argument that I'm making to Democrats is, don't fight the last war -- you already have. If somebody is wanting to outsource, if any of the companies here wanted to locate in China, you've already done it. If you wanted to locate in a low-wage country with low labor standards and low environmental standards, there hasn't been that much preventing you from doing so. And, ironically, if we are able to get Trans-Pacific Partnership done, then we're actually forcing some countries to boost their labor standards, boost their environmental standards, boost transparency, reduce corruption, increase intellectual property protection. And so all that is good for us.