Friday, April 17, 2015

Fast Track Introduced into Senate & House; Wyden Proud of His Role


More true than you know; China wins big if TPP passes (source)

by Gaius Publius

What we anticipated has occurred. Fast Track, the necessary precursor to the TPP (next-NAFTA) "trade" agreement, has been introduced into the Senate and the House. They're calling it the Hatch-Wyden-Ryan bill, and well they should. ("Ryan" is Paul Ryan, by the way.)

Bottom lines first:
  • Wyden should lose his job over this, and may.
  • All of Obama's "good guy" cred is falling fast. Anyone who "gets" TPP knows he's cashing out or selling out. (Polite talk is that he believes his own BS.)
  • The battle is on, starting in the Senate.
  • The bill will have a very tough time in the House, thanks to progressives and Republicans both working to defeat it.
Scan the headings below for sections you want to explore further. This is still being analyzed.

The News

From the House announcement page (Paul Ryan "speaking"):
Hatch, Wyden and Ryan Introduce Trade Promotion Authority Legislation

Finance, Ways and Means Leaders Deliver Bill Needed to Achieve High-Quality Trade Deals that Open Markets, Benefit American Workers and Job Creators

WASHINGTON — Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) today introduced bipartisan, bicameral Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation that establishes concrete rules for international trade negotiations to help the United States deliver strong, high-standard trade agreements that will boost American exports and create new economic opportunities and better jobs for American workers, manufacturers, farmers, ranchers and entrepreneurs.

The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015) outlines 21st century congressional negotiating objectives that any administration— Republican or Democratic—must follow when entering into and conducting trade talks with foreign countries while also increasing transparency by requiring that Congress have access to important information surrounding pending trade deals and that the public receive detailed updates and see the full details of trade agreements well before they are signed. When the trade agreement meets the United States’ objectives and Congress is sufficiently consulted, the legislation allows for trade deals to be submitted to Congress for an up-or-down vote, an incentive for negotiating nations to put their best offer forward for any deal. At the same time, the bill creates a new mechanism to withdraw TPA procedures and hold the administration accountable should it fail to meet the requirements of TPA. ...

TPA-2015 creates a stronger, more effective framework for Congress to partner with an administration in the pursuit of trade agreements that meets the demands of the 21st century global economy—a framework that ensures Congress has a strong voice in negotiations.

The bill establishes new trade-negotiating objectives that reflect today’s economic challenges, including measures to combat currency manipulation, and eliminate barriers to innovation and digital trade, among others. Updated provisions address government involvement in cyber theft, protect trade secrets and the negotiating objectives continue to call for trade agreements to provide a high standard of intellectual property protection. The bill also updates [unenforceable] provisions to promote human rights, and strengthen labor and environment protection, to reflect America’s most recent trade accords.

Furthermore, TPA-2015 modifies TPA procedures to enhance accountability of the Executive Branch and further strengthen congressional oversight and creates a new mechanism for the removal of expedited procedures for a trade agreement if, in the judgment of either the House or Senate, that agreement does not meet the requirements of TPA.

The TPA bill comes as the two of the most ambitious trade negotiations in the nation’s history —the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP)—are underway to further tear down trade barriers to American goods and services. According to data from the World Bank, together these two trade agreements would further open markets encompassing nearly 1.3 billion customers and approximately 60 percent of global gross domestic product.

TPA expired in 2007 and is needed for the United States to successfully conclude these negotiations.

A summary the bill can be found here, section-by-section summary of bill here and a copy of the bill text can be found here.
Hope you skimmed, though there's some telling stuff in it. Now you know.

The Response

Lori Wallach, the go-to person on TPP, responds:
The trade authority bill introduced today would revive the controversial Fast Track procedures to which nearly all U.S. House of Representatives Democrats and a sizable bloc of House Republicans already have announced opposition. Most of the text of this bill replicates word-for-word the text of the 2014 Fast Track bill, which itself replicated much of the 2002 Fast Track bill. Public Citizen calls on Congress to again oppose the outdated, anti-democratic Fast Track authority as a first step to replacing decades of “trade” policy that has led to the loss of millions of middle-class jobs and the rollback of critical public interest safeguards.

In the past 21 years, Fast Track authority has been authorized only once by Congress – from 2002 to 2007. In 1998, the U.S. House of Representatives voted down Fast Track for President Bill Clinton, with 71 GOP members joining 171 House Democrats. ...

Instead of establishing a new “exit ramp [from Fast Track rules],” the bill literally replicates the same impossible conditions from past Fast Track bills that make the “procedural disapproval” mechanism to remove an agreement from Fast Track unusable. A resolution to do so [exit Fast Track] must be approved by both the Senate Finance and the House Ways and Means committees and then be passed by both chambers within 60 days.
What about Wyden's bragged-about modifications?
The bill’s only new feature in this respect is a new “consultation and compliance” procedure that would only be usable after an agreement was already signed and entered into, at which point changes to the pact could be made only if all other negotiating parties agreed to reopen negotiations and then agreed to the changes (likely after extracting further concessions from the United States). That process would require approval by 60 Senators to take a pact off of Fast Track consideration, even though a simple majority “no” vote in the Senate would have the same effect on an agreement. In contrast, the 1988 Fast Track empowered either the House Ways and Means or the Senate Finance committees to vote by simple majority to remove a pact from Fast Track consideration, with no additional floor votes required. And, such a disapproval action was authorized before a president could sign and enter into a trade agreement.
And what about that Wyden bragging?

Wyden Brags About His Role

In a letter to supporters, Wyden proudly wrote:
This new TPA framework means that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will represent a real opportunity for workers in Oregon and around the country.
This may, or will, come back to bite him. Oregon has a struggling wood-products industry. And:
To that end, I helped secure critical [unenforceable] protections for labor rights, the environment, and fundamental human rights as part of the TPA .... On balance this agreement represents trade done right for workers and businesses here in Oregon and all across America.
Keep that in mind, Mr. Wyden. If it bites you, it came from your words. The list of those noticing is not small.

What Are the Odds of Passage?

They seem "long." Wallach:
Today’s bill faces long odds for approval. Members of Congress who supported past trade initiatives have been angered by the extreme secrecy of TPP negotiations and the administration’s refusal to include currency disciplines in the pact.
I was part of a conversation recently that included several members of Congress on this topic. The Democratic opposition is strong and strongly felt. And the Republican opposition seems to be growing. Alan Grayson, in an interview conducted in January and broadcast in February, concurred (jump to 41:20 for the TPP comments).

I count the odds as long as well, but this issue is big for both sides, meaning there are major dollars at stake. Assume circumstances could change much as we move forward.

Mark Pocan — One of Many Opposed

Mark Pocan is one of many who opposed Fast Track. His office release the following (my emphasis):
Pocan Opposes Fast-Track Trade Promotion Authority Plan

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) today issued the following statement on the Trade Promotion Authority proposal introduced by U.S. Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI):

“This Trade Promotion Authority Bill repeats the trade mistakes of the past and fails to provide critical protections for American workers, the environment, and our overall economy.

“The Hatch-Wyden proposal puts the paychecks of hardworking Americans on the line. Over the last three decades, in large part because of bad trade deals like NAFTA and CAFTA, Americans have worked harder than ever for less. In fact, hundreds of thousands of jobs – factory jobs, middle-class jobs – in states across the country were lost. Anyone who does not see the connection between our economy and the failed trade agreements of the past will remain on the wrong side of the future. We cannot let history repeat itself by pushing a Trade Promotion Authority bill which paves the road for an agreement which undermines American sovereignty and puts our workers’ wages and jobs at risk.

“If passed, Fast-Track would ram through trade agreements, negotiated in secret, through Congress without giving Members of Congress sufficient time to debate and limits Congress’ ability to make amendments. Essentially, this Fast-Track proposal provides carte blanche to the President and the U.S. Trade Representative on trade matters, while tying Congress’ hands.

“With still too many questions left unanswered and a history of broken trade promises, Congress should not give away its constitutional authority to the President – regardless of party. I urge my colleagues to oppose this trade promotion legislation because it does not do enough to protect American workers, our environment, and our economy.”
Pocan is one of many. Note that "regardless of party" part. The resistance is bipartisan, and the reasons on the Republican side are many. Please lobby your Congress people; then be hopeful. More coming.


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At 12:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd really like an answer. Decade after decade we see these horrible things passing, with the votes of many otherwise good legislators.

So what is it that people like Obama and Wyden and others who are highly intelligent and supposedly ethical supposed to understand about TPP and NAFTA et al that makes it okay to stripmine the middle classes and impoverish further the poor?

Is it just the make-or-break corporate donations? Is it blackmail made possible by surveillance? Does there have to be a magic number of Bernie Sanderses and Alan Graysons in Congress around whom opposition to international corporate malfeasance has to coalesce before members find the nerve to stand up and object, "Have you no decency, Joe Biden"?

At 3:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As of this moment, the two pages linked to posted by the opposed Congress members do not add up to enough to block the bill. 151 Dems and 21 GOP don't add up to the 218 necessary. Nancy better get cracking!

Anyone who got this far thinking Obama still had any "good guy creds" almost deserves for this bill to pass. They aren't mentally capable of handling the responsibility of a job.

If this bill passes, expect the GOP to flog the people with the fact that this abomination passed under a Democratic president, intending to paint Hillary with that particular slander to damage her prospects. It would probably work.

Of all the letdowns and betrayals Obama has done to the people who elected him -TWICE- this will prove to be the worst and the longest-lasting. There would be nothing preventing the US from declining to the level of Bangladesh or Vietnam. Ready to make Nikes you can't afford to buy when you only make 60 cents an hour?

Only the union workers of the MIC will be left alone to maintain their lifestyles - FOR NOW. Once the MIC feels safe about moving production of weapons and military vehicles offshore (as the Navy considered during the Bush years), even these Good Republican-voting workers will be sacrificed on the altar of corporate profits.

They had best not EVER complain to me about how bad they have it at that time. They won't like what I tell them!

At 7:37 PM, Blogger Find Handmade said...

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At 10:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anyone who got this far thinking Obama still had any "good guy creds" almost deserves for this bill to pass. They aren't mentally capable of handling the responsibility of a job."

I agree that the TPP is further betrayal of the U.S. middle class and others, but the above statement is ridiculous hyperbole. Obama's helped accomplish many small and larger positive goals. To not acknowledge them and paint the picture as totally all or nothing is stupid in itself. Someone advocating that all or nothing thinking earn the personal mental hells they create for themselves.

At 5:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

None so blind as those who refuse to see fact over a broken dream.


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