There are a lot of reasons Americans, even Americans who are generally supportive of President Obama, don’t want Congress to grant him Trade Promotion Authority to “fast-track” negotiations and the approval process for a sweeping new Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. For instance, the president wants Congress to surrender its ability to make amendments to this deal and to agreements negotiated by the next president—even amendments that seek to lock in protections for labor rights, human rights, and the environment. The administration wants Congress to give up its power to hold a meaningful debate before voting on this and future deals. Yet, even as it seeks fast-track authority, the administration refuses to share the details of the agreement as it now stands with Congress.
Presidents always seek maximum flexibility.
But Congress does not have to grant it.
The Senate has, after a good deal of wrangling, bent to the White House’s fast-track demand. But the House, where trade debates are always more intense, could still say “no.”
Revelations about what’s being proposed in global-trade negotiations point to why this is the wrong time for Congress to surrender oversight authority.
Just this week, Wikileaks released previously-secret negotiating texts that point to how a proposed Trade-in-Services Agreement (TISA) that could clear the way for privatization of public services and deregulation of financial services. “Once again Wikileaks reveals what we cannot learn from our own government, a government that defaults to giant trade deals that affect generations of Americans shrouded in secrecy until they are virtually adopted,” says Communications Worers of America president Larry Cohen. "This TISA text again favors privatization over public services, limits governmental action on issues ranging from safety to the environment using trade as a smokescreen to limit citizen rights. Those in the US Congress considering Fast Track should take heed. TISA is as big a blow to our rights and freedom as the Trans- Pacific Partnership and in both cases our government’s secrecy is the key enabler."
Cohen is right.
This fast-track request at this time is too much to ask of Congress, and that’s too much to ask of the American people.
The level of grassroots opposition to the fast-track proposal was evident Wednesday, when critics of failed trade policies released petitions with the signatures of roughly 2 million Americans who are asking Congress reject Trade Promotion Authority that would allow not just President Obama but the next president—be she a Democrat or a Republican—to fast-track new trade agreements without adequate scrutiny.
Key members of Congress, led by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Connecticut Congresswomen Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, Barbara Lee of California, and Donna Edwards of Maryland, along with Congressional Progressive Caucus leaders Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, and David Cicilline of Rhode Island, welcomed the delivery of the boxes of petitions. So, too, did leaders of groups that helped gather the signatures—including the AFL-CIO, Public Citizen, the Alliance for Retired Americans, DailyKos, Demand Progress, Democracy for America, MoveOn.org Civic Action, Avaaz, Rootstrikers, Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club, Social Security Works, SumOfUs, 350.org and CREDO.