Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Representative Dave Camp (R-Mich.) have officially introduced fast-track trade authority legislation in Congress. Fast track is a process that bypasses Congress' constitutional role in the treaty process. Fast track prohibits amendments to a trade treaty, limits Congress' right to debate and requires an up-or-down vote (even though Senate Republicans have filibustered more than 400 other times since President Obama took office) within 90 days of the treaty coming before the Congress.
A number of Democrats as well as Republicans in the House have already stated objections to the fast-track process, so the bill faces an uphill battle. But the giant multinational corporations will push very hard to get this.
Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, said of the new legislation:
“Congress’ willingness to support Fast Track has declined markedly because ‘trade’ agreements have increasingly invaded Congress’ domestic policymaking prerogatives. On top of that, Democratic and GOP presidents alike have consistently ignored the negotiating objectives included in Fast Track, but the way the process is structured, Congress has given away its authority to do anything about it.”
United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard immediately released a statement that began:
"This is the wrong proposal at the wrong time. It is wrong for American workers and will only continue to take us further down the road in the wrong direction. Why on earth would we want to simply continue doing things the old way, when it's resulted in rising trade deficits, more manufacturing job losses and greater income inequality?
"It's time for a new approach to trade. Past negotiating objectives, with only minimal changes by the two Chairmen, are being offered as the basis for future trade policies. But today's trade policies have fueled historic trade deficits and left our trading partners with bags of U.S. dollars and millions of American jobs. More of the same will only yield more outsourced and offshored jobs and shattered dreams."
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in a statement said the labor alliance "opposes this legislation in the strongest of terms and will actively work to block its passage."
2014 marks the 20th anniversary of NAFTA, which was only the first in a series of trade agreements that have undermined millions of middle-class American jobs and weakened our democratic structures. So it is ironic that this year the supporters of that failed model are bringing forward a fast track trade promotion bill to bring us more of the same: more trade deals that strengthen corporate power and CEO profits, while putting downward pressure on wages and opportunities for the rest of us; more outsourced and offshored jobs and more attacks on domestic health and safety regulations.
Note that fast track is not necessary to pass trade agreements. Even without fast track, President Clinton was able to implement more than 130 trade agreements, including granting most-favored-nation status to China. This is all about setting up a process that enables the giant multinational corporations to push through the coming Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.
Previous trade agreements have enabled the giant multinational corporations to move jobs and factories out of the country, saving on labor and environmental protection costs. This has caused American wages to drop and inequality to rise to terrible levels. These "free-trade" agreements have led to incredible, humongous, enormous trade deficits, draining more than $540 billion of "demand" from our economy in 2012. This is the core reason unemployment is high and the economy is having such trouble recovering.
Imagine if our country's factories and businesses had an additional $540 billion of orders in 2012. Think about how many people would have been hired to fill those orders, how many factories would be humming, how many suppliers would be prospering. THAT is how to understand the loss of that $540 billion in orders resulting from the trade deficit.
But hey, even though American wages are falling, unemployment is high, job growth is meager and the economy is struggling as a result of these trade agreements, the giant multinational corporations are doing great.
Public Citizen has an action alert out. Click through to "Write Your Representative to Vote ‘No’ on Fast Track Trade Authority." The Coalition For a Prosperous America, representing "manufacturing, agricultural, worker, consumer and citizen interests," also has a page you can use to tell Congress to vote against fast-track trade authority.