Environmental Groups Denounce Fast Track Trade Process

Dave Johnson

The Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the League of Conservation Voters and 41 other environmental groups sent a letter to Congress this week, asking them to oppose “fast track” trade promotion authority for upcoming trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). They asked Congress to instead set up an open, transparent trade negotiating system that gives stakeholders, other than just corporate representatives, input in the process.

The letter begins, “As leading U.S. environmental and science organizations, we write to express our strong opposition to ‘fast track’ trade promotion authority, and to urge you to oppose any legislation that would limit the ability of Congress to ensure that trade pacts deliver benefits for communities, workers, public health, and the environment.”

Background On Fast Track, TPP

Currently, trade negotiations are conducted in secret. Corporate representatives are part of the process, and the negotiators come from or expect to go into the corporate world. Stakeholders like environmental, consumer, labor, democracy, human rights, and other groups are excluded from the process.

Once these agreements are finalized, a process known as “fast track” is used to push the agreement through. Fast track asks Congress to forgo the usual process of careful deliberation, and vote within 90 days of Congress and the public first seeing the agreement. Congress also agrees in advance not to amend or filibuster the agreement. This sets up a rushed situation, in which massive corporate PR campaigns can pressure Congress to pass the agreement, and not “kill the whole thing” over problems that they might find. The public does not have time to digest the implications of the agreement and rally opposition, if warranted.

The letter from the environmental groups explains”

“Fast track was originally designed in the 1970s, when trade agreements focused on traditional trade issues such as cutting tariffs and lifting quotas. Today’s trade agreements, however, are about much more than tariffs and quotas and have significant implications for our environment, public health, and global climate.”

TPP is a massive agreement between the U.S. and 11 other countries. It has 29 “chapters” – only five of which cover trade issues at all. Other chapters cover things like rules limiting how countries regulate corporations, limiting how countries make laws that might limit corporation profits, and other rules that grant giant multinational corporations special protections from competition.

Instead of this corporate-dominated process, the environmental groups ask for an open, transparent process that delivers benefits for working people, not just for the owners of the largest corporations. From the letter:

“U.S. involvement in trade negotiations should be guided by democracy, transparency, political accountability and must lead to a ‘race to the top’ that provides real protections for communities, workers, and the environment. A new model of trade that delivers benefits for most Americans, promotes broadly shared prosperity, and safeguards the environment and public health is possible.’

Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club said, “Trade should be done right — not just fast — to protect our families and neighbors from pollution and climate disruption. Fast-tracking flawed trade pacts is a deal-breaker. With fast track, we would be trading away clean air, clean water, and safe communities.”

Peter Lehner, Executive Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council: “Congress shouldn’t give a fast lane to trade pacts that don’t protect our public health and climate. These trade bills would give foreign corporations and governments the right to challenge our bedrock protections for clean air, safe drinking water, healthy food and proper chemical safeguards. We shouldn’t trade away our sovereignty. We need trade bills that tackle the 21st-century environmental challenges, not take us backwards.”

Click here to view the letter: sc.org/EnvirosAgainstFastTrack

Signers of this letter include:

  • 350.org
  • Athens County (OH) Fracking Action Network
  • Berks Gas Truth
  • Catskill Mountainkeeper
  • Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy
  • Center for Biological Diversity
  • Center for International Environmental Law
  • Chesapeake Climate Action Network
  • Clean Economy Coalition of the Coastal Bend
  • Clean Water Action
  • The Delaware Riverkeeper
  • Defenders of Wildlife
  • Earthjustice
  • Earthworks
  • Energy Action Coalition
  • Environmental Action
  • Environmental Health Coalition
  • Environmental Investigation Agency
  • Food & Water Watch
  • Friends of the Earth
  • Friends of Merrymeeting Bay
  • Greenpeace USA
  • Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
  • Institute for Policy Studies, Climate Policy Program
  • League of Conservation Voters
  • Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Oil Change International
  • Olympic Climate Action
  • Partnership for Policy Integrity
  • People Demanding Action
  • PODER (People Organized in Defense of Earth and Her Resources)
  • Progressive Democrats of America
  • Progressive Democrats of America Maryland
  • Rainforest Action Network
  • Safe Climate Campaign
  • Sierra Club
  • Southern Oregon Climate Action Now
  • Sustain US
  • Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition
  • The Texas Drought Project
  • Union of Concerned Scientists, Center for Science and Democracy
  • U.S. Climate Plan
  • Washington Environmental Council
  • Wild Earth Guardians

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