Obama Administration Continues Pitch to Steamroll Corporate-Friendly Trade Deal

The AFL-CIO says previous trade deals "form a mountain of broken promises made to workers," and that Fast Track could help another disastrous deal--the TPP--get passed. (Photo: Backbone Campaign/flickr/cc)

Obama Administration Continues Pitch to Steamroll Corporate-Friendly Trade Deal

Top trade authority continues line that legislation that would strip Congress of constitutional powers is good.

The Obama administration is continuing its push for controversial legislation that would fast track trade deals including the massive Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), now nearing the end stages.

The legislation is Trade Promotion Authority, also known as Fast Track, which Rich Bindell of watchdog group Food and Water Watch described as a "highway to hell."

TechDirt's Michael Masnick explains that Fast Track

is where Congress basically tells the USTR that it will only take a single "yes/no" vote on whatever the USTR comes back with, rather than delving into the details of the trade agreement and challenging specific aspects of it. In fact, there's an argument that, without fast track authority, the USTR can't really commit the US to anything. What's really odd is that, in a Republican-controlled Congress that seems to want to fight President Obama on just about anything that even has a whiff of the executive branch having more power, it's those Republicans in Congress who are pushing strongly for fast track authority -- effectively giving up their (Constitutionally-mandated) power to regulate international trade.

The latest pitch for the power came Monday from the nation's top trade authority, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, in his remarks to the National Association of Counties.

Froman called the TPP "the most ambitious trade agenda in American history" and said that "the finish line for TPP negotiations is in sight."

He called the trade deal "our main tool for leveling the playing field for American workers and businesses," and, in contrast to arguments made by watchdog groups, said the TPP "gives us the opportunity to protect workers, to protect the environment, and to tackle a number of issues that have never been addressed."

Froman said Fast Track is "the way Congress gives direction to the President about what to negotiate, how to consult with Congress before and during the negotiations and how Congress will decide at the end of the day--after an extensive public debate--whether to support or reject a trade agreement. "

But as Masnick's explanation of fast track elucidated, it prevents Congress from giving direction on deals by taking away their opportunities to add amendments.

Sen. Bernie Sanders is among those expressing opposition to Fast Track, but he told the Wall Street Journal Monday that felt it would pass the Senate.

Among its critics in the House are Representatives Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who issued a statement last month that it's "clear that members of Congress do not want to abdicate their constitutional authority" with Fast Track, adding, "After seeing trade deal after trade deal send millions of U.S. jobs overseas, Congress can no longer give this administration--or any future one--the benefit of the doubt, especially given the scope of this particular deal."

Fast Track has also faced fierce opposition from a wide range of grassroots groups.

The AFL-CIO's executive council also issued a statement Monday in which it outlines its opposition to Fast Track, and cites the history of previous trade deals, which Sanders called "abysmal failures," as a sign that Froman's promises on TPP are false.

Trade negotiations, trade promotion authority (known as "TPA" or "Fast Track") and economic policy are inextricably intertwined. Because "trade" agreements include provisions on environmental policy, labor rights, foreign investment, food safety, anti-trust policy and more, these decisions should not be made behind closed doors--away from the eyes of the people and their elected representatives.

U.S. trade deals--from NAFTA and CAFTA to Korea and Colombia--form a mountain of broken promises made to workers. With NAFTA and Korea, we were promised more jobs and higher wages because the deals would make it easier to export U.S. products. Instead, the deals made it easier to export U.S. jobs, in part by including powerful legal rights for foreign investors, known as ISDS that provide an added incentive to move production offshore.

[...] the AFL-CIO commits to working with a broad coalition of allies to defeat "Fast Track" trade authority and instead develop more democratic and participatory trade negotiating procedures that lead to fairer and more balanced trade deals that put people and the planet over profits.

According to reporting by The Hill, Congress could be presented with the legislation soon: "Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), panel ranking member Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) are working on an updated version of the legislation, which could be ready by the end of the month."

And getting Fast Track passed is reportedly key to paving the way for the 12-nation TPP deal. Zach Carter reported at the Huffington Post: "TPP likely cannot pass without fast-track authority."

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.