Reprinted from Campaign For America's Future
The trade promotion authority bill -- fast track -- is expected to come to the floor of the Senate soon for debate and then a vote, possibly even this week. It could also reach the House floor sometime this month.
This is the big one. Fast track essentially pre-approves the Trans-Pacific Partnership before the public gets a chance to even know what is in the massive, still-secret trade agreement. If fast track passes, the Congress will have a limited time to vote after the deal is signed and revealed to the public for the first time. They will be allowed only limited debate and will not be allowed to make any amendments, no matter what might turn up that could hurt our working people and our economy.
This will be a close vote in the Senate. It is remarkable that the Senate is so closely divided on something that Wall Street and the giant multinational corporations want so badly. This is a tribute to the progressive movement's ability to get the word out and organize opposition in spite of the virtual media blackout on both fast track and the still-secret TPP trade agreement. But now is not the time to sit back and watch; now is the time to make calls and let your Senators and Representatives know how you feel about this.
Democratic Candidate Positions
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton so far remains silent on the issue. Her campaign website does not yet have an issues section. However, a recent Huffington Post story, Hillary Clinton Agrees With Elizabeth Warren On Trade Dispute With Obama reports on a section of her book "Hard Choices," writing, "Hillary Clinton is opposed to a critical piece of the Obama administration's Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would give corporations the right to sue sovereign nations over laws or regulations that could potentially curb their profits."
Candidate Bernie Sanders opposes both fast track and the TPP. His campaign website states,
"Since 2001 we have lost more than 60,000 factories in this country, and more than 4.9 million decent-paying manufacturing jobs. We must end our disastrous trade policies (NAFTA, CAFTA, PNTR with China, etc.) which enable corporate America to shut down plants in this country and move to China and other low-wage countries. We need to end the race to the bottom and develop trade policies which demand that American corporations create jobs here, and not abroad."
Strategy Cooked Up By Nixon
How do you get a trade bill that sends jobs out of the country so that companies here can break unions, force wages down and trim benefits in order for a few already-wealthy executives and investors (Wall Street) to pocket the difference? The answer is to rig the rules of the game in advance. Fast track is that strategy. You sell fast track by complaining that Congress will "meddle" with the agreement and that other parties to the agreement "won't make their best offers if they know Congress can make changes." This is really an argument against democracy and representative government, but what the heck?
Lori Wallach explains, in "Nixon Hatched Fast Track, Not FDR":
"Fast Track -- for which 'TPA' was not coincidentally chosen as the preferred rebranding -- may be Nixon's most under-appreciated power grab. For the first time in 200 years of U.S. history, Fast Track empowered the executive branch to 'diplomatically legislate' changes to non-trade U.S. domestic policy via 'trade' negotiations. Until Fast Track, Congress used five different forms of trade authority over the course of the nation's history to direct executive branch trade negotiators. None of them granted executive authority beyond tariffs.
"In contrast, Fast Track turned 'trade' pacts into backdoor means for executive branch officials to set policy on an array of matters otherwise under Congress' or state legislatures' constitutional authority: patent and copyright laws; immigration policies; food and product safety standards; financial, health and energy service sector rules; and even government procurement terms. U.S. domestic law must be altered to conform to such 'trade' pact terms. Failure to do so can result in indefinite trade sanctions against U.S. exports."
Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) explained how TPA fast track falls short in "The Hatch-Wyden-Ryan TPA Bill: A Major Step Back on TPP Negotiations,"
"'Unfortunately, the Hatch-Wyden-Ryan Trade Promotion Authority does not move us toward a stronger TPP agreement that will garner broad, bipartisan support in Congress,' Rep. Levin said in the document. 'TPP is not where it needs to be right now, and Hatch-Wyden-Ryan does nothing to change that. On all of the major issues in the negotiations, the negotiating objectives are obsolete or woefully inadequate. We can't expect to get the best deal if we are not asking for the right things. The Hatch-Wyden-Ryan TPA gives up Congressional leverage at the exact wrong time. Instead of pressing USTR to get a better agreement or signaling to our negotiating partners that Congress will only accept a strong agreement, the Hatch-Wyden-Ryan TPA puts Congress in the back seat and greases the skids for an up-or-down vote after the fact. Real Congressional power is not at the end of the process, it is right now when the critical outstanding issues are being negotiated."