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The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote Friday on the fast track trade promotion authority (TPA) bill to, in essence, preapprove the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and future so-called “trade” agreements. The vote is expected to be close.

If the House passes fast track, it means that whatever ends up being in the TPP and future agreements will have to be approved or disapproved by an up-or-down vote, in a very short time period, with little debate and no changes allowed.

TPP is known to include provisions that enable foreign corporations and foreign subsidiaries of American corporations to sue our government for laws and regulations the cut existing and “expected” profits. For example, under similar provisions currently in effect:
● Tobacco companies are currently suing other governments because of efforts to help their citizens stop smoking.
● Mexican fishing corporations have successfully sued the U.S. government over rules prohibiting “dolphin-safe” labels on cans of tuna that are not caught using dolphin-safe methods.
● Mexican and Canadian meat-producing corporations successfully sued the U.S. government for “country-of-origin” labeling laws for meat.
● Canada is considering suing the U.S. government for Dodd-Frank regulations prohibiting American banks from making certain risky investments.

The fast track TPA is part of a package of three bills that are to proceed together on Friday. The set of votes are expected to include existing provisions to cut Medicare to pay for minimal trade adjustment assistance (TAA) for some of the U.S. workers who will be displaced by TPP. The details of the plan are to then change the funding for this program from Medicare cuts to some other source, in a different bill, to try to get Democrats to support this. This would mean that the fast track bill does not have to return to the Senate for another vote. However, House Democrats who then vote for fast track will be on record as voting to cut Medicare, which Republican opponents will likely use against them in the 2016 elections.

Trade adjustment assistance is designed to help workers who are “displaced” by our trade policies, which encourage offshoring and deindustrialization. For example, if TPP passes, Nike will be rewarded for offshoring the manufacture of shoes with a tariff cut on the shoes they bring back from low-wage countries like Vietnam and Malaysia. But the tariff cut will likely push New Balance to cease U.S. manufacturing and lay off its American workforce, because it can’t compete with workers making $1 an hour or less.

The New Balance workers – and workers in other companies still trying to compete with the offshoring encouraged by past trade agreements that encourage offshoring and deindustrialization – will be provided with “job training” to compete with the workers in the jobs that remain. This job training helps some Democrats vote for trade policies that offshore jobs.

Another problem in the current procedure is the “Customs bill,” the second of the package of three bills — TAA, Customs and Fast Track TPA. Representative Paul Ryan has added an amendment that would “ensure that trade agreements do not require changes to U.S. law or obligate the United States with respect to global warming or climate change.” This is an attempt to attract Republican votes, but might push the few Democrats supporting Fast Track away.

This is convoluted and confusing. What to watch for is the vote later today on TAA. If that passes, then the house will vote on the Customs bill. Then, if those pass, tomorrow (Friday) the House votes on fast track TPA.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka blasted President Obama in an open letter for mischaracterizing the labor movement as “opposed to trade in principle.” Trumka wrote, “What we do not support are trade deals that benefit Wall Street, but decimate Main Street.”

Trumka continued, “We don’t support rigged rules that skew the benefits of trade to powerful global corporations, while forcing working families, domestic businesses, small farmers, and countless communities to bear the costs.”

The fast track vote is expected Friday. Use our site to look up and call your representative’s office and let them know how you feel about fast track. If you don’t want “working families, domestic businesses, small farmers, and countless communities to bear the costs” of putting gazillions of dollars into the pockets of a few executives and Wall Street investors, make sure Congress hears you.

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