«Fast Track Trade Authority Must Be Replaced To Deliver Trade Agreement that Can Deliver Broad Benefits March 23, 2015 Dear Senator: Last fall, our ...»
Fast Track Trade Authority Must Be Replaced
To Deliver Trade Agreement that Can Deliver Broad Benefits
March 23, 2015
Last fall, our organizations were joined by nearly 600 other unions and environmental, consumer, faith,
family farm, civil rights, seniors, LGBT and other civil society organizations on a letter outlining the
features of a trade authority mechanism that we would support. As negotiations on a prospective trade
authority bill continue, we wanted to bring these criteria in the attached letter to your attention.
Given that the administration has failed to incorporate into the Trans-Pacific Partnership the enforceable disciplines against currency manipulation that bipartisan majorities in both the Senate and House support, it is even more critical now that Congress must not cede its leverage over the contents of American trade agreements.
Over the course of our nation’s history, Congress has regularly created new trade authority mechanisms as the subject matter of agreements has changed. In order to deal with today’s complex trade agreements and accelerating globalization, a 21st century trade authority that includes enhanced mechanisms for Congress to exercise its constitutional authority over trade agreements from start to finish is needed.
While it is important that Congress develop robust and binding negotiating mandates that outline what all U.S. trade agreements must and must not include, as detailed in the attached letter, even more important is the replacement of the outdated and failed Fast Track procedures.
Fast Track empowered a president to unilaterally select countries, determine the contents of agreements via negotiation, and sign and enter into them before Congress approved their texts, regardless of whether a pact met Congress’ statutory negotiating objectives defined under the Fast Track delegation.
Fast Track further empowered a president to write and submit legislation to implement the trade agreement and after skirting normal congressional review and mark-up to be guaranteed votes in both chambers within 90 days. Importantly, neither the implementing bill nor the underlying trade deal could be amended, regardless of whether a pact met Congress’ statutory negotiating objectives.
The 1988 Fast Track allowed either the Ways and Means or Finance Committees to remove an agreement from expedited consideration before a president signed it and allowed any member of Congress to submit a “disapproval resolution” removing a pact from Fast Track, however these processes proved insufficient to enforce some of Congress’ negotiating objectives with respect to the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization agreements.
This reinforces why a new trade authority process must ensure that Congress, not the executive branch, determines when Congress’ negotiating objectives have been satisfied as well as requirements for increased congressional and public oversight over the process. To ensure better trade deals that work for all of us, it must open up the negotiating process to public scrutiny. Further, completed agreements must only be subject to expedited consideration if and when Congress determines that the conditions of its delegation are met.
We urge you to seize the historic opportunity to replace the outdated Fast Track procedures that our organizations so strongly oppose and create a new trade negotiating and approval process that would help deliver trade agreements that could benefit workers, communities, and the environment and, therefore, rebuild broad support for trade agreements.
*** The Honorable Ron Wyden United States Senate Washington, D.C. 20510 September 10, 2014
Dear Chairman Wyden:
On behalf of our millions of members and supporters, we write to share our objectives regarding 21st century trade agreements and the enhanced congressional oversight needed to ensure that U.S. trade pacts deliver benefits for most Americans, promote broadly shared prosperity, and safeguard the environment and public health. Our organizations oppose the Fast Track model of trade authority and believe that it must be replaced with a new system for negotiating and implementing trade agreements that provides for more congressional and public accountability.
Today’s proposed trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), extend far beyond traditional trade issues such as tariffs. The TPP is a massive 29-chapter agreement that would establish binding rules on issues related to labor rights, energy and the environment, medicine pricing, patents and copyright, food and product safety, Internet freedom and innovation, government procurement, financial regulation, immigration, healthcare, and more. Similarly, TTIP is an expansive agreement that will focus mainly on eliminating so-called “non-tariff” or “technical” barriers to trade—namely behind-the-border domestic regulatory policies.
Indeed, the TTIP is focused more on how national or regional policies are made and the uniformity of regulatory standards than on international trade in its traditional sense.
The old Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority is simply not appropriate given the subject matter covered by today’s pacts, such as TPP and TTIP. For this reason, we oppose “The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act” (S. 1900), which replicates the overly broad delegation of Congress’s constitutional authorities that was provided in the 2002 Fast Track and allows the executive branch to unilaterally select negotiating partner countries, negotiate terms, decide when negotiations are complete and then sign a final pact before the full Congress has had an opportunity to approve the contents. Pursuant to S.
1900, signed pacts could then be rushed through Congress—regardless of whether congressional negotiating objectives have been met—with a guaranteed vote in 90 days under rules that circumvent ordinary review, amendment and debate procedures.
In order to deal with today’s complex trade agreements and accelerating globalization, a 21st century trade authority that includes enhanced mechanisms for Congress to exercise its constitutional authority over U.S. trade policy is needed. While it is important that Congress develop negotiating mandates that outline what all U.S. trade agreements must and must not include, as explained below, even more important is the replacement of the outdated and failed Fast Track procedures. Any agreement that will be considered for expedited approval (i.e. limited debate and no amendments) must include robust and binding provisions that truly mark it as a “21st Century Trade Agreement.” However, including strong mandates without a system to guarantee the mandates have been achieved is like having a speeding limit in a school zone without any enforcement personnel. To that end, in this new model of trade authority, expedited consideration of completed agreements should only be available if and when Congress determines that its negotiating objectives have been satisfied and the executive branch has abided by requirements for increased congressional and public oversight over the entire process.
To achieve improved accountability and outcomes, this enhanced process should include:
1. Congressional role in selecting appropriate trade partners: Congress should set criteria, including with respect to human and labor rights compliance, environmental and public health standards, and market access opportunities for U.S. exporters, to determine whether a country is an appropriate trading partner for the United States. Congress must also have the opportunity to determine that a country proposed by the executive branch does not meet such criteria before negotiations commence and is unlikely to be an appropriate partner in the near term, in which case the trade agreement would not qualify for expedited procedures.
2. Mandatory negotiating objectives to ensure trade agreements deliver broad benefits: Congress should set mandatory negotiating objectives outlining what all U.S. trade agreements must and must not include. Congress must have the opportunity to add agreement-specific objectives.
3. Enhanced transparency to ensure meaningful congressional and public input: The Office of the United States Trade Representative must conduct broad, specific, and systematic congressional and public briefings on the progress that negotiators are making towards meeting the established negotiating objectives. In addition, negotiating texts should be made available to the public so that all stakeholders have the information to provide informed input to elected and appointed officials on the implications of the trade deal.
4. Congressional certification that trade goals have been met before trade negotiations are concluded: When executive branch negotiators believe that they have concluded negotiations, a final text must be released publicly and Congress must certify that the negotiating objectives have been satisfied before the text of a pact can be deemed final. Only such certification could trigger an expedited vote by Congress to approve the agreement.
5. Congressional approval of trade agreements and authorization for the executive branch to sign and enter into agreements: Congress would vote on trade agreements using expedited procedures only if the requirements enumerated above were met. Requiring explicit congressional approval to sign and enter into the agreement enables Congress to ensure that an agreement’s contents are acceptable at a time when changes could still be made, if necessary.
6. A mechanism for a sizeable minority of the House or Senate to obtain a vote on a resolution to remove an agreement from expedited consideration: As an additional safeguard, a sizeable minority in either chamber should be able to get a privileged floor vote in either chamber on a resolution to withdraw expedited consideration for any pact for a variety of reasons, such as lack of Congressional or public consultation/input or clear breach of negotiating objectives.
7. Trade negotiating authority must be considered in conjunction with related trade and economic policy legislation. For example, trade rules that cannot be enforced provide no real benefits for the American people, our environment, or our economy. Moreover, increased trade without concurrent investments in our infrastructure and workforce will surely result in lost opportunities. Addressing longstanding economic problems such as wage suppression and economic inequality will take more than new trade pacts.
Over the course of our nation’s history, Congress has regularly created new trade authority mechanisms as the subject matter of agreements changed. We urge you to seize the historic opportunity to replace the outdated Fast Track procedures that our organizations so strongly oppose and create a new trade negotiating and approval process that would help deliver trade agreements that could benefit workers, communities, and the environment and, therefore, rebuild broad support for trade agreements.
Local, State, and Regional Organizations:
12th Congressional District AFSCME Council 5 American Federation of Government Chapter of Progressive Democrats of AFSCME Council 65 Employees, Local 3937 America AFSCME Local 1542 American Indian Mothers Inc.
350 Central Maine AFSCME Local 1624 American Postal Workers Union, 350 Maine AFSCME Local 3214 Minneapolis Area Local 350 CT AFSCME Local 3214 American Postal Workers Union, St.
350 Seattle AFSCME Local 34 Paul Area Local 7th District West of Illinois Move-On AFSCME Local 3800 Americans for Democratic Action Chapter AFSCME Local 4001 Hawaii a2mc (Access to Medicines Coalition) AFSCME Local 668 Americans for Democratic Action AFT ‒ Oregon ACC / AFT Local 6249 Iowa ACLC AFL-CIO Alliance for Democracy - Oregon Americans for Democratic Action of