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State of the Union: President's Base Opposes Fast Track for TPP

  • Over 550 Labor, Environmental, Family Farm & Community Groups Send Letter to Congress Opposing Fast Track Legislation
    Citizens Trade Campaign, January 27, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Arthur Stamoulis, (202) 494-8826 or media@citizenstrade.org

WASHINGTON, DC — Over 550 labor, environmental, family farm and other organizations traditionally associated with President Barack Obama's political base sent a letter to Congress today opposing Fast Track legislation for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other pending trade agreements.  The letter comes just a day before the President's annual State of the Union address.  Corporate interests that fought the president's re-election are lobbying for him to use the speech to call on Congress to enact Fast Track authority for the TPP.  The President's political base and many congressional Democrats stand in united opposition, emphasizing that the TPP threatens to exacerbate American income inequality.  

"Income inequality and long-term unemployment are serious problems that the job-killing TPP would only worsen," said Arthur Stamoulis, executive director of Citizens Trade Campaign, which organized the letter.  "Calling for Fast Track in the State of the Union would undercut positive proposals to battle growing income inequality and create middle class jobs which are expected to be the central focus of the President's speech.  As short-sighted as such a call would be, even more short-sighted would be for Congress members on either side of the aisle to answer it, as they're the ones who would be dealing with the political repercussions this November."

The 564-organization letter urges Congress to oppose "The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act" (HR 3830/S 1900), legislation which would revive the 2002 Fast Track "trade promotion authority" mechanism that expired in 2007.  The bill was introduced on January 9 without a Democratic sponsor in the House by Ways & Means Committee Chair David Camp (R-MI), and by outgoing Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) in the Senate.  

"After decades of devastating job loss, attacks on environmental and health laws and floods of unsafe imported food under our past trade agreements, America must chart a new course on trade policy," the letter reads.  "To accomplish this, a new form of trade authority is needed that ensures Congress and the public play a much more meaningful role in determining the contents of U.S. trade agreements... [The Camp-Baucus bill] is an abrogation of not only Congress' constitutional authority, but of its responsibility to the American people.  We oppose this bill, and urge you to do so as well."

Among the signers are labor unions like the AFL-CIO, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), American Federation of Teachers, Communications Workers of America, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, United Autoworkers (UAW), United Brotherhood of Carpenters, United Steelworkers (USW) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU); environmental organizations like 350.org, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Rainforest Action Network and the Sierra Club; family farm organizations like the National Family Farm Coalition, National Farmers Union and the Western Organization of Resource Councils; consumer groups like Food & Water Watch, Organic Consumers Association, National Consumers League and Public Citizen; and hundreds of others.  

During last year's State of the Union address, President Obama claimed that the TPP would "boost American exports."  He made similar claims in his 2011 State of the Union speech with respect to the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, urging Congress to pass that pact.  U.S. exports to Korea declined ten percent in the first year of that agreement, while American-job-displacing imports from South Korea increased.  The 37 percent increase to the U.S. trade deficit with Korea in the pact's first year equated to a loss of 40,000 U.S. jobs.  

Trade negotiators have missed repeated self-imposed deadlines for completing the TPP, and more than three-quarters of House Democrats and a bloc of Republican House members have signed letters expressing their opposition to Fast Track for the agreement.  

"Americans cannot afford a 'NAFTA of the Pacific.'  Fast Track would ensure that the Obama administration's proposals for the TPP are never exposed to public scrutiny until after the pact is signed, amendments are prohibited and changes become all but impossible," said Stamoulis.  "Rubber stamping such a far-reaching agreement sight unseen is no way for Congress to create public policy."

A PDF copy of today's letter opposing Fast Track can be found online at: http://www.citizenstrade.org/ctc/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/FastTrackOppositionLtr_012714_Congress.pdf

###

January 27, 2014

Re: Please Oppose “The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act” (HR 3830 / S 1900)

Dear Member of Congress:

The undersigned organizations urge you to oppose “The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act” (HR 3830 / S 1900).  This legislation would revive the outdated and unsound 2002 “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority mechanism.  

Indeed, the legislation replicates the broad delegation of Congress’ constitutional authorities that was provided in the 2002 Fast Track, undermining Congress’ ability to have a meaningful role in shaping the contents of trade agreements.   

The legislation includes several negotiation objectives not found in the 2002 Fast Track.  However, the Fast Track process that this legislation would reestablish ensures that these objectives are entirely unenforceable.  If this bill were enacted, the president could sign a trade agreement before Congress votes on it — whether or not the negotiating objectives have been met.   It would also allow the executive branch to write legislation not subject to committee markup that would implement the pact and alter existing U.S. laws so that they come into compliance with the rules of the trade agreement.   Additionally, if HR 3830 were enacted, trade pact implementing legislation would be guaranteed House and Senate votes within 90 days, with all floor amendments forbidden and a maximum of 20 hours of debate.

Fast Track was designed in the 1970s when trade negotiations were focused on cutting tariffs and quotas.  Today’s pending “trade” agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), are much broader — setting binding policy on Congress and state legislatures relating to patents and copyright, food safety, government procurement, financial regulation, immigration, healthcare, energy, the environment, labor rights and more.  Such a broad delegation of Congress’ constitutional authorities is simply inappropriate given the scope of the pending “trade” agreements and the implications for Congress’ core domestic policymaking prerogatives.

After decades of devastating job loss, attacks on environmental and health laws and floods of unsafe imported food under our past trade agreements, America must chart a new course on trade policy.  To accomplish this, a new form of trade authority is needed that ensures that Congress and the public play a much more meaningful role in determining the contents of U.S. trade agreements. Critically, such a new procedure must ensure that Congress is satisfied with a trade agreement’s contents before a pact can be signed and subjected to any expedited procedures.

HR 3830 / S 1900 is an abrogation of not only Congress’ constitutional authority, but of its responsibility to the American people.  We oppose this bill, and urge you to do so as well.

Sincerely,  

Citizens Trade Campaign
350.org
ActionAid USA
AFL-CIO
Alliance for Democracy
Alliance for Retired Americans
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
American Federation of Teachers
American Friends Service Committee
American Medical Student Organization
American Nurses Association
Americans for Democratic Action
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