January 12, 2014

TPP Fast Track Bill introduced in US Senate

 

January 12, 2014. Washington. The fight’s on, let round one begin. Corporate lobbyists and their grassroots counterparts have been gearing up for this battle for over a year. On Thursday, the bell sounded as Sen. Max Baucus introduced Fast Track legislation specifically designed to aid the controversial and secret TPP Trade Agreement get approved without debate, revisions or Amendments.

Senators Max Baucus (D-MT, left) & Orrin Hatch (R-UT, right) - the Establishment's point people pushing TPP and 'Fast Track'. Image courtesy of Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

Supporters of the Fast Track Trade Bill argue that the policy has been in effect for much of the past 25 years and was the only reason President Clinton was able to pass a slew of global trade deals including NAFTA. President Bush also used Fast Track to push his own international agreements through the Legislative Branch without debate or delay. Congress stopped using the procedure in 2007.



But the current Bill’s opponents use the exact same argument, insisting that Fast Track has given the US global laws and corporate loopholes that have devastated the American economy and led to the loss of tens of millions of US jobs. Under TPP, they fear the US will not only lose millions of additional jobs, but our nation’s sovereignty as well.

Read the following Whiteout Press articles for further details about TPP: 'Parts of TPP Trade Deal leaked by WikiLeaks' and 'TPP Trade Agreement subordinates Nations to Corporations'.

Trade Promotion Authority

Trade Promotion Authority is the generic name of the national authority assigned to Congress for negotiating and approving all national trade agreements. Article 2, Section 2 of the US Constitution specifically gives responsibility for approving international agreements to Congress. In fact, the clause demands that the US Senate approve all global deals with no less than a super-majority.

The Bill sponsored and introduced by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) on Thursday would bypass the US Constitution. While it doesn’t do anything specifically for the secretive and anticipated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement that’s been negotiated in secret for over a year, it does pave the way for TPP to sail through Congress without debate, revisions or Amendments. Most worrisome to its Congressional opponents is that it removes members of Congress from the drafting and negotiating phases of future national trade deals.

Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014

TPA 2014, as the Baucus Bill is known, would change the way international trade deals are created, negotiated and approved in the US. If the legislation is approved by Congress and signed by the President, it would pave the way for coming legislation like TPP. According to its bi-partisan sponsors, including Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), TPA-2014 brings America’s standard procedures for trade deals into the 21st Century.

Contrary to what most ‘Fast Track’ opponents suggest, the law doesn’t give the President unilateral control over the nation’s trade deals. Although, with the power of the Executive Order, the President actually already has that authority. Right now, any international agreements must pass with a super-majority. Among other things, TPA-2014 would change that to a simple majority - 50% plus 1. The Bill also concedes other Congressional powers.

At first glance, and to the lay-person’s eyes, the legislation appears to reverse today’s standard treaty procedures. Right now, Congress has the authority for approval but isn’t required to be a part of the process or even see the agreements they’re responsible for voting on. The new fast track Bill sponsored by Sen. Baucus would bring Congress into the information loop, but take away most of their authority over the matters. The term ‘non-binding’ is used quite a bit when describing Congress’ proposed new powers.



What Congress and We The People would receive:

  • Congressmen can be appointed by the Executive Branch to be part of future trade deal negotiations during their drafting phase.
  • Recent environmental laws would be worked into new deals.
  • Congressional participation in future treaty negotiations and periodic reports from US trade representatives.
  • Removal of foreign barriers to US agricultural products such as genetically modified plants and animals.
  • Requires countries to stop manipulating the value of their currency to gain an unfair international trade advantage.
  • Stricter regulation and inspection of global food products, and the removal of tariffs and barriers meant to aid domestically-grown food.
  • Periodic copies of trade agreement texts as they’re being written and negotiated.

 

What Congress and We The People would lose:

  • Congressional approval would drop from a super-majority to a simple majority.
  • Congress would not be able to debate, revise any treaty language, or offer Amendments.
  • Protections from the import of cheap foreign products made by questionable labor practices such as child slavery.
  • Procedures that would delay a vote, such as questions, debates and Committee or Sub-Committee hearings.
  • Business competition - Bill would increase and extend patent and intellectual property protections.
  • The ability to legislate over multi-national corporations operating in the US if the proposed law violates a nation’s or corporation’s international trade protections.


 


 

Both sides dig in for a fight

After reviewing the arguments from a number of powerful entities on both sides of the issue, the above points seem to be the highlights of the just-introduced Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014 (TPA-2014).

The Bill’s supporters include; the US Chamber of Commerce, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Pork Producers Council, National Foreign Trade Council, The Business Roundtable, National Association of Manufacturers and a host of other special interest groups representing over 600 multi-national corporations.

The Bill’s opponents include; Doctors Without Borders, AFL-CIO, Amnesty International, Electronic Frontier Foundation, ACLU, Communications Workers of America, Food & Water Watch, Farmers Union, Fair Trade Coalition, Public  Citizen, Teamsters and a coalition of environmentalists, labor unions and Constitutional libertarians.

Again, TPA-2014 isn’t the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) legislation itself. Instead, it’s the precursor to TPP and many more international agreements that cut out most of Congress’ authority on global treaties and transfers the power to the Executive Branch. It’s also worth mentioning that there are a number of individual groups and people that support TPP but not ‘fast track’. The same can be said for the opposite, they support fast-track, just not TPP.

 

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