Did you like NAFTA? Then you’re going to love the Trans Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement!
By David Newby, President, Wisconsin Fair Trade Coalition
The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) will be the largest so-called “Free Trade” Agreement ever, including 40% of the world’s Gross Domestic Product. It will include the U.S., Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
The Obama Administration hopes to finish negotiations on this Agreement by the end of this year. Negotiations so far have been held in secret. Almost all we know about what’s been agreed to or proposed comes from leaks. But what we do know indicates that the final Agreement will embody a breathtaking expansion of multinational corporate economic power (and profits) and in some instances give corporations power that trumps that of our national and state and local governments.
More detail about these horrors next month. This month let’s talk about how the Administration is going to get the votes necessary to pass this monstrosity. The trick is to get Congress to pass “Fast Track” authority. A couple of years ago, the U.S. Trade Representative (who heads up international trade negotiations) said that if the American public knew what was in the Trans Pacific Partnership, they would be outraged and Congress could never pass it.
That’s where Fast Track comes in, as a way to sneak TPP (and other “free trade” agreements) past the American public and past Congress so quickly that we won’t know what hit us until it’s all over.
What does Fast Track do and how does it work?
It starts out by transferring the Constitutional power of Congress to regulate international trade to the Executive Branch (the President). It allows the President to decide who the U.S. will negotiate a trade agreement with and what it will contain. In the past, Presidents have usually consulted with Congressional leaders about these talks and even made public negotiating positions. But not with the TPP. It has been negotiated in secret (with the help of 600 certified corporate “advisors”) and even Members of Congress can’t get copies of what’s been agreed to and what’s on the table.
The worst part is that when the Agreement is finished, the President signs it, drafts the formal language, and sends it to Congress. (Even though it’s signed, it doesn’t actually go into force until Congress approves.) The actual language submitted to Congress includes not only what has been agreed upon with other countries—but also makes changes to federal law that are necessary for us to be in compliance with the Trade Agreement. In other words, when Congress approves the Agreement, it also approves changes to environmental, food safety, labor, patent or other aspects of federal law.
Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad if the usual procedures for passing a law were in effect. But they’re not.
Congress has only 90 days to review the proposed Agreement (which will be well over 1000 pages long). Then each house has to vote on it. Only twenty hours of debate are allowed in each house (less than Sen. Cruz’s filibuster against ObamaCare)—and no amendments are allowed! Members of the House and Senate can only vote “yes” or “no”. As a result, not only do they not have enough time to figure out what is in the implementing legislation, they don’t have time to debate its merits and can’t change even the most damaging parts of it. The pressure on them from corporate lobbyists and the President to vote “yes” will be immense, even overpowering.
President Obama will probably have submitted a Fast Track bill to the House and Senate by the time this issue of Union Labor News goes to print—and they will probably vote on it this fall.
Defeating Fast Track is far easier than defeating a completed Trade Agreement (last time Congress voted on Fast Track authority, it passed by only two votes!).
So we CAN win this incredibly important fight!
The key Members of Congress to call in Wisconsin are:
Congressman Ron Kind (608-782-2558)
Senator Ron Johnson (920-230-7250)
Or you can call the Congressional Switchboard and leave a message (202-224-3121). All your message needs to say is: “Vote against Fast Track! It gives up Constitutional powers of the Congress and could lead to a disastrous Trade Agreement because Congress won’t really know what’s in it—and can’t change it!”
The Wisconsin Fair Trade Coalition and the South Central Federation of Labor are working on other ways to educate union members and the general public about this threat to our jobs and our living conditions — but first it’s up to you to make the calls and spread the word!
David Newby, President
Wisconsin Fair Trade Coalition
The truth is, NAFTA cost jobs and the TPP will cost even more jobs. Where is government shutdowns when you need them? Thanks David… Jack