WASHINGTON - January 31 - President Bush’s call today for the extension of trade promotion authority, or “fast track,” reveals that he simply isn’t listening to the real and serious concerns of the American people regarding our nation’s economic future. Extending “fast track” authority would hamstring Congress’s ability to fix our broken trade policy at a time when working families are in dire need of a correction in course.
Misguided trade policies have exacerbated stagnant wages and growing job insecurity in America today. We have lost more than 3 million manufacturing jobs since 2001, many to offshore outsourcing, while an increasing number of white-collar service-sector jobs are also at risk. At the same time our trade deficit has ballooned to nearly $800 billion.
Rather than staggering blindly from one trade agreement to the next, our nation needs to regain our economic footing. To do this, we need a strategic pause to assess what have been the real and significant costs of our trade policy for working men and women in the U.S. and abroad. Absent an honest assessment, we will undoubtedly find ourselves on the same failed path.
International trade is important and should be pursued, but it is essential that we get the rules right. Any future trade negotiating authority must require that the negotiators actually achieve the key negotiating objectives, not just “give it their best shot.” Any agreement that gets the expedited consideration and an up-or-down vote included in fast track must include enforceable core international worker rights and enforceable environmental standards. It must also include rules on investment, government procurement, intellectual property rights, and services that strike the right balance between democratic accountability, development concerns and international obligations.
Last November, working people voted for a new direction. We need an entirely new process to ensure that Congress and the public have a greater say in our economic future. No longer should Congress be expected to take an up-or-down vote on a bad trade deal without proper consultation and participation at earlier stages of negotiation. Congress should be consulted throughout the process and should certify whether a proposed agreement fulfills the mandatory negotiating objectives. If not, Congress should send the President back to the bargaining table until the agreement is one that the American people can support – one that will ensure that the benefits of trade are more equally distributed rather than concentrated in too few hands.