For Immediate Release
US and Europe Prepare for Trade Votes
WASHINGTON - The House of Representatives could vote as early as Friday on the Trade Act of 2015 or Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) that allows trade deals to be voted on without amendment in Congress. The Senate passed similar legislation on May 22 by a vote of 62-37. In the wake of this vote, the Obama Administration negotiates the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), that could be affected by this trade authority. The two deals involve 40 countries that represent more than 60% of the world's economy.
"For good or bad, these trade deals will impact millions of the world's poorest people," said Eric LeCompte, executive director of the religious anti-poverty coalition Jubilee USA Network. "US trade deals should aim specifically to reduce poverty and hunger."
Jubilee USA supported an amendment to the Senate TPA bill offered by Colorado Senator Michael Bennett that would "ensure that trade policies and agreements contribute to the reduction of poverty and the elimination of hunger." The Senate did not vote on the amendment.
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Meanwhile, lawmakers in Europe and the United States continue to debate trade tribunals called Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanisms. The European Union is preparing for a vote on TTIP, a proposed trade deal between the United States and Europe. Lawmakers will consider amendments to amend or remove these arbitration provisions from TTIP. These tribunals are designed to resolve disputes between companies and countries involving trade agreement rules. A group of United Nations legal and human rights experts recently called on governments to amend these arbitration clauses in trade deals to ensure human rights protections. They argue the tribunals deter countries from passing public interest legislation.
Last year, 121 academics voiced concern that predatory financial firms could use the tribunals to sue countries in economic distress to collect on debts purchased on the secondary market. In 2013, a Slovakian financial firm and its shareholder in Cyprus used an investment tribunal to sue Greece over a debt dispute. The firm argued that Greece's debt restructuring violated the terms of its investment treaties with Slovakia and Cyprus.
"We can't allow predatory firms to hijack trade policy," noted LeCompte, who serves as an expert to United Nations finance working groups. "Congress should pass trade deals that reform or eliminate arbitration provisions that favor predators over social protections."
Jubilee USA supported Senate Amendment 1326 to strip trade deals of these arbitration provisions. The Senate rejected the amendment 60-39.
Read the academics' comments on ISDS provisions in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.