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“Fast Track” Trade Authority Already In Trouble on Capitol Hill

The trade deal itself remains far from finalized, opposition continues to grow in participating countries, and even editorial boards weighing in against the deal.

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, Senator Max Baucus, Senator Orrin Hatch and Congressman Dave Camp introduced the long-awaited fast-track trade promotion authority legislation on Capitol Hill. Maybe it was the big press conference in New Jersey, the late in the day introduction or the minor attention paid to it by even the White House, but the introduction came and went in the news cycle so fast that you may have easily missed it.
It could also be the wide-spread knowledge that fast-track trade authority, which would strip Congress of its Constitutionally-granted role on trade agreements in favor of a “take it or leave it” stamp of approval, is in serious trouble of ever getting passed.
“House Democrats balked Thursday at a bill designed to clear congressional hurdles for President Barack Obama’s controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact,” reports the Huffington Post. “By refusing to put forward a co-sponsor for the legislation, House Democrats have significantly hampered the prospects for the bill’s passage.”
The trade deal itself remains far from finalized, opposition continues to grow in participating countries, and even editorial boards weighing in against the deal. All this as Americans learn the negative impact the deal would have on the auto industry, dairy workers, protecting the environment and more.
Maybe it is just a majority of Congress agree with their constituents that it is time for fair trade. As Charles Pierce writes in Esquire, “the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a million-ton dunghammer aimed at what’s left of the American middle-class, the dwindling numbers of which ought to be able by now to recognize the taste of ‘free-trade’ snake oil when it’s fed to them.”
Below is a sampling of some of the statements from elected, labor, business, environmental and community leaders against fast-trade trade promotion authority. The road ahead for the TPP is a long one because, as Pierce writes, it will be hard for the Obama Administration to focus on solving economic inequality while pushing “a trade deal that inevitably will make that inequality worse. In a week where everybody in Washington was talking about poverty, we are asked to take this gigantic job-sucker on faith.”
Widespread Opposition to the Camp-Baucus Fast Track Legislation
“We are not prepared to support TPA legislation that resembles the current framework for consultations or that does not provide mechanisms that enable Congress to hold USTR more accountable throughout the negotiation process or give USTR greater authority to negotiate basic standards on good governance and human rights. Since the Administration is seeking TPA after substantial negotiations have already taken place in the Asia Pacific, we are concerned about giving USTR greater authority without a consultative framework already in place that provides Congress with the necessary confidence that its views will adequately inform USTR’s positions.”
U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
“The effort by Sen. Baucus, Rep. Camp and Sen. Hatch has fallen far short of adequately replacing the failed 2002 TPA model. I do not support their proposal and am working with colleagues to develop legislation that fully meets today’s needs in a rapidly globalizing economy.”
Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI)
“For too long, bad trade deals have allowed corporations to ship good American jobs overseas, and wages, benefits, workplace protections and quality of life have all declined as a result. That is why there is strong bipartisan opposition to enabling the Executive Branch to ram through far-reaching, secretly negotiated trade deals like the TPP that extend well beyond traditional trade matters … Our constituents did not send us to Washington to ship their jobs overseas, and Congress will not be a rubber stamp for another flawed trade deal that will hang the middle class out to dry.”
Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and George Miller (D-CA)
“America lost nearly 700,000 jobs because of NAFTA. Jobs have been shipped across borders, gutting the middle class. We can’t make that same mistake again. Corporate America loves to tout the growth in trade due to NAFTA. But those dollars have largely gone into the pockets of top executives.”
Teamsters President James P. Hoffa
“Fast track is the wrong track when it comes to a trade deal like the Trans-Pacific Partnership that will affect our laws, our jobs, our food and our environment. [It] forces Congress to give up its Constitutional right to amend and improve this trade deal, which now is reportedly more than 1,000 pages long.”
Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen
“The kind of trade expansion fast track would expedite isn’t part of the solution for the still-wheezing U.S. economy. Fast-tracked trade deals and other so-called free-trade agreements have been a major part of the problem. NAFTA and other free-trade agreements in the NAFTA model, such as Mr. Obama’s so-called signature Korea deal, have massively widened our nation’s trade deficit, sharply reducing economic growth and job-creation. Since the implementation of NAFTA, the nation has a cumulative trade deficit in goods and service of over $8 trillion. Could any CEO and senior management team survive in the private sector with a record of abysmal failure like that? ”
U.S. Business and Industry Council President Kevin L. Kearns
“The Sierra Club opposes fast track, an outdated and inappropriate mechanism for trade pacts as expansive as the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and the proposed U.S.-EU trade deal. This legislation strips Congress of its defining democratic characteristic — its check-and-balance structure. If Congress is not able to fully debate and, if necessary, amend the language of these all-encompassing trade pacts, the environment, our climate, and our families could suffer as a result.”
Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune
”[The] bill submitted today by Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus and Senate Finance Ranking Member Orrin Hatch is out of date, poorly conceived, and bad for American workers. For that reason, the AFL-CIO opposes this legislation in the strongest of terms and will actively work to block its passage.”
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka
“Unfettered fast track, as the Camp-Baucus proposal calls for, is a recipe for continued outsourcing and offshoring of jobs. The American people are sick and tired of one-way trade. The USW will vigorously oppose the proposal and any efforts to provide preferential and expedited treatment for trade deals that fail to reform and update our nation’s trade policies and allow negotiations to continue to be cloaked in secrecy.”
United Steelworkers International President Leo Gerard
“The IAM strongly opposes the bill… This legislation does not represent the new, transparent trade policy that our economy desperately needs and that U.S. workers deserve. It would make it even easier to obtain passage of the soon to be finalized Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). If TPP is finalized and implemented, it would wreak havoc on U.S. manufacturing workers as thousands of more jobs will be outsourced to countries that do not respect human rights.”
International Association of Machinists President Tom Buffenbarger
“Fast track authorization is a threat to our democracy and our sovereignty. It is a legislative procedure that facilitates closed-door deal making… The stakes are too high for Congress to tie its own hands when it comes to modifying trade deals it had little role in developing in the first place.”
AFSCME President Lee Saunders
“The Baucus-Camp Fast Track bill turns the U.S. Constitution upside down. Congress must not give away its constitutional authority and facilitate the ratification of an environmentally destructive Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement.”
Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica
“It’s rare these days that across the aisle, Congress agrees on anything, so it’s notable that a large bipartisan bloc insists on maintaining the exclusive constitutional authority over trade that the Founding Fathers wisely granted to Congress.”
Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch Director Lori Wallach
“If Congress approves Fast Track, it’s not just delegating its trade authority to the White House, it’s effectively signaling its tacit approval of the largest corporate-driven trade agreement in U.S. history before even seeing it. The TPP is a corporate wish list disguised as a trade agreement. The question we need to ask is: ‘Do we really want to be put in the position to have to blindly approve an agreement devised by the likes of Walmart, Big Tobacco, and Chevron without even being able to amend it?’”
Corporate Accountability International Press Secretary Jesse Bragg
“It’s deplorable that Congress would consider giving up their oversight role and allow the White House to push for an accelerated timetable for something as critical and far-reaching as the TPP. If Congress passes Fast Track, it would allow the President to set the terms for all future negotiations relating to trade deals, without any ability of Congress to amend the language.”
Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter
“The Trans-Pacific Partnership would be an unmitigated disaster for everything from the environment to internet freedom and working families. Members of Congress must be able to work to ensure that any proposed trade agreement is a fair deal for all Americans, not just the rich and powerful who have a seat at the table during closed-door negotiations. Let’s be clear: A vote for fast track authority on the TPP is a vote for a deal that will hurt hardworking Americans and haunt every single member of Congress, Republican or Democrat, who votes for it.”
Democracy for America Executive Director Charles Chamberlain

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