President Obama had hoped to be able to announce that he had been granted Fast Track Authority before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Bali, Indonesia on October 8, 2013, but due to budget issues and the government shutdown, the bill wasn’t introduced and approved in the fall. He had also hoped to complete negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement at this meeting, but no agreement was reached by the countries involved. For the last three years, the Obama administration has conducted negotiations behind closed doors through the offices of U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk without any involvement with Congress.
Eleven nations have participated in the negotiations: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. Japan announced its intention to join the agreement last spring. Because the TPP is intended as a “docking agreement,” other Pacific Rim countries could join over time, and the Philippines, Thailand, Colombia, and others have expressed interest. China could join the TPP at a later date without suffering any disadvantage even though this would negate the original reason for the TPP as a counter to China’s hegemony in the Pacific.
Reliable sources have revealed that a bill to grant the president Fast Track Authority under the Trade Promotion Authority will be introduced on January 8th in the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee. It appears that there is sufficient support to pass these bills out of the committees for a vote on the floor.
Earlier this year, I published three blog articles on the dangers of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and granting the president Fast Track Authority: “The Trans-Pacific Partnership Would Destroy our National Sovereignty;” “Why the Trans Pacific Partnership Would Hurt American Manufacturers;” and “The Trans Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement Would Harm our Environment.”
In my first article, I commented on the many articles that Lori Wallach of Public Citizen had written about the Trans-Pacific Partnership: “Ms. Wallach opines that U.S. multinational corporations have the goal of imposing on more countries a set of extreme foreign investor privileges and rights and their private enforcement through the notorious “investor-state” system. ‘ This system elevates individual corporations and investors to equal standing with each TPP signatory country’s government- and above all of us citizens.’ This would enable ‘foreign investors to skirt domestic courts and laws, and sue governments directly before tribunals of three private sector lawyers operating under World Bank and UN rules to demand taxpayer compensation for any domestic law that investors believe will diminish their ‘expected future profits.’”
With regard to “Buy American” laws in my second article, I wrote, “What this means is that the TPP’s procurement chapter would require that all companies operating in any country signing the agreement be provided access equal to domestic firms to U.S. government procurement contracts over a certain dollar threshold. To meet this requirement, the U.S. would have to agree to waive Buy America procurement policies for all companies operating in TPP countries.”
I also noted that as far back as May 3, 2012, a letter from Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and 68 other Congressional Reps to President Obama stated in part, “We are concerned about proposals we understand are under consideration in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement negotiations that could significantly limit Buy American provisions and as a result adversely impact American jobs, workers, and manufacturers…We do not believe this approach is in the best interest of U.S. manufacturers and U.S. workers. Of special concern is the prospect that firms established in TPP countries, such as the many Chinese firms in Vietnam, could obtain waivers from Buy American policies. This could result in larger sums of U.S. tax dollars being invested to strengthen other countries’ manufacturing sectors, rather than our own.”
In a commentary article on October 15, 2013, Lt. Col (Retired) Allen West wrote, “TPP would subject the U.S. to the jurisdiction of foreign tribunals under the authority of the World Bank and United Nations. These unelected, unaccountable panels would constitute a judicial authority higher than the U.S. Supreme Court. They would have the power to overrule federal court rulings and order payment of U.S. tax dollars to enforce the special privileges granted to foreign firms that would be exempt from EPA and other regulations that strangle American firms.”
He added, “We’re also told TPP shows our Asian allies we’re serious about confronting China. But it would actually weaken the U.S. As the Chinese People’s Liberation Army uses every means possible to infiltrate our command and control systems, TPP bans Buy American policies that require crucial equipment for our troops be produced in the U.S. We don’t need TPP to stop China’s military expansion – we need to tell the same crowd pushing TPP to stop transferring their capital and technology to that communist dictatorship.”
In a commentary on the Economy in Crisis website, economist Pat Choate outlined the reasons why we should oppose President Obama being granted Fast Track Authority:
- Allows the President to select countries with which to enter into trade agreements, set the substance of the talks and then sign those pacts without prior Congressional approval.
- Allows the President to negotiate and include in these trade agreements not only tariffs and quotas, but also changes in federal, state and local laws on taxes, food and health safety, patents, copyrights, trademarks, immigration, Environment, Labor standards, and Buy America provisions, among many other issues.
- Creates a Presidential advisory system, comprising 700 industry representatives appointed by the President. These advisors have access to confidential negotiating documents that are kept secret from most members of Congress and the public.
- Empowers the President to draft the agreements to implement legislation without Congressional input.
- Requires House and Senate Leaders to introduce the President’s bill on the first legislative day following the President’s submission.
- Requires that the legislation be discharged from Committee 45 days after submission.
- Requires a floor vote 15 days after the bill is discharged from Committees.
- Allows only 20 hours of debate in each House.
- Prohibits any amendments either in Committee or during the floor debate.
- Eliminates several floor procedures, including Senate unanimous consent, normal debate and cloture rules, and the ability to amend the legislation.
- Prevents a Senate filibuster.
- Requires only a simple majority vote in each House for enactment.
In conclusion Mr. Choate states, “These trade pacts will have the effect of a treaty, though the Constitution requires a two thirds majority vote by the Senate for the United States to enter into a treaty.”
It is precisely this sort of amassing of powers that defines a dictatorship. Our Founding Fathers wisely chose to keep governmental power separated in a system of checks and balances, but by utilizing the Fast Track Authority, our Constitutional system of checks and balances would be destroyed and our national sovereignty would be given to foreign nations and multinational corporations in the name of “free trade.”
A letter addressed to President Obama, signed by 24 Republican Representatives in the House, stated, “Under Fast Track, the executive branch is empowered to sign trade agreements before Congress has an opportunity to vote on them, and then unilaterally write legislation making the pacts’ terms U.S. federal law. Fast Track allows the president to send these executive branch-authored bills directly to the floor for a vote under rules forbidding all floor amendments and limiting debate. And by requiring the House to vote on the bill within a preset period of time, it takes the floor schedule out of the hands of the House majority and gives it to the president.
Given these factors, we do not agree to cede our constitutional authority to the executive through an approval of a request for “Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority.”
The signatories were: Jones, Bachmann, Joyce, Gohmert, Cook, McKinley, Jimmy Duncan, Stockman, LoBiondo, R. Bishop, C. Collins, C. Smith, Rohrabacher, Bentivolio, Grimm, Mica, Broun, Brooks, D. Young, Jeff Duncan, Gibson, Denham, Hunter and Fitzpatrick.
On the Democrat side of the aisle, Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and George Miller (D-CA) took the lead in getting a total of 151 Democrats in the House to oppose the use of “Fast Track” procedures that usurp Congress’s authority over trade matters. Their opposition stands for both the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and any future trade agreements. The letter in part states, “Congress, not the Executive Branch, must determine when an agreement meets the objectives Congress sets in the exercise of its Article I-8 exclusive constitutional authority to set the terms of trade. For instance, an agreement that does not specifically meet congressional negotiating objectives must not receive preferential consideration in Congress. A new trade agreement negotiation and approval process that restores a robust role for Congress is essential to achieving U.S. trade agreements that can secure prosperity for the greatest number of Americans, while preserving the vital tenets of American democracy in the era of globalization.”
If Fast Track Authority is approved, it would allow President Obama to essentially have dictatorial control over the country in many respects. Fast Track Authority gives the executive branch legislative powers, something expressly forbidden by the Constitution. We must deny the President Fast Track Authority. If this is granted, it will be even more difficult to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership from being approved.
It would be the final nail in the coffin for U.S. sovereignty. Contact your Congressional representative and urge them to oppose the Fast Track Authority and forward this article to your friends and ask them to do the same!