550 US organizations led by the AFL-CIO, the Communications Workers of America, theÂ Sierra Club, the Citizens Trade Campaign, and Public Citizen sent a letterÂ to Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden firmly rejecting the ‘fast-track trade promotion authority’ and calling for a new system for negotiating and implementing trade agreements.
‘Fast track’ is the US system previously used to push through trade agreements on an ‘up and down vote’ with no line by line scrutiny.
The US Congress has regularly created new trade authority mechanisms as international trade has evolved. ‘Fast track’ first went into effect under RichardÂ Nixon in the 1970s. Fast-track authority was last granted during the George W. Bush administration, but that law expired on June 30th, 2007.
In the letter, the diverse coalition stated that fast track, an outdated mechanism that would limit Congressional and public oversight over trade negotiations, is âsimply not appropriateâ given the broad subjects covered by todayâs trade pacts, such as the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
âFast track is the wrong track for Americans who care about the health of our families and access to clean air, clean water, and land,â said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. âWe need a new model of trade — one that protects communities and the environment while keeping the public engaged in the policy-making process.â
In January this year then – Senator Max Baucus and Congressman Dave Camp introduced a fast-track bill, the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014, which would strip Congress of its ability to amend or sufficiently debate trade pacts. Senator Ron Wyden, the current Senate Finance Chairman, is now drafting a new trade authority bill.
âThere is no âacceptableâ version of fast track,â said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. âFast-track must be replaced so Congress can steer international trade in a new direction and create agreements that actually work for most Americans.â
Instead of fast track, the letter calls for a new model of trade authority that includes a Congressional role in selecting trade partners, a set of mandatory negotiating objectives, enhanced transparency, Congressional certification that negotiating objectives have been met before trade negotiations can conclude, and more.
âWe need 21st-century trade authority that allows Congress to do its job and represent the interests of U.S. workers, consumers and communities. By any name, the flawed âfast trackâ approach still would enable negotiators to bypass Congress and put in place new and binding agreements that have real consequences for all of us,â said Larry Cohen, president of the Communication Workers of America.
âA new model of trade authority is the only way to ensure that workers and communities have a voice in these trade decisions. We want to determine what kind of economy we have, not simply accept super-power status for multinational corporations and a snailsâ pace for the enforcement issues raised by the rest of us.â
âOnly with new trade negotiating authority can we secure new trade rules that can help hard working Americans build a sustainable economy and promote broadly shared prosperity,â said President Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO. âChairman Wyden has a chance to make history by being the architect of a new and democratic trade policy, and we commit to doing all we can to help achieve that goal.â