by Deborah Nelson
June 22, 2015
District 1 Representative Jeff Miller, last Thursday, voted ‘yes’ to a new ‘fast track’ bill. Note: The bill title references an IRS amendment because the fast track verbiage was tacked on to an existing measure.
As before, the measure would cede Congressional authority to write trade legislation to the President.
A previous version passed June 12, but was derailed when a separate measure to protect workers displaced by “free trade” did not pass. That bill’s passage was necessary in order to move forward on the fast track measure.
The new vote was taken without the worker protection bill requirement. The Senate must now approve that version.
A Senate vote is expected this week.
Fast track would allow the President to write future “free trade” bills and send them forward to Congress for a yes or no vote, with no amendments and debate limited to 20 hours.
NAFTA, The World Trade Organization (WTO), CAFTA and similar 2011 trade deals in Panama, North Korea and Columbia also passed under “fast track” authority. It has since expired.
CAFTA passed by 2 votes. Miller’s was one of them.
Miller also voted “YES” to the three 2011 pacts.
America’s trade deficit with South Korea has more than doubled, to $14 billion, since the Korea pact was signed, according to U.S. Census figures released May 5, as reported by Public Citizen. Exports to Korea decreased 6 percent ($2.7 billion) while imports increased 19 percent ($11.3 billion) in three years.
“The trade deficit increase equates to the loss of more than 93,000 American jobs in the first three years of the Korea FTA, counting both exports and imports, according to the trade-jobs ratio that the Obama administration used to project gains from the deal,” according to Public Citizen.
The U.S. has been participating in secret “free trade” Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations since 2008. Other participants include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
Obama has been criticized for negotiating with Malaysia despite documented evidence of a widespread slave trade.
TPP talks are closed to the public, press and members of Congress. After an outcry over the secrecy, President Obama recently allowed elected officials to view lengthy trade documents in a guarded room. They may not take photos, notes or bring expert advisors along. It’s not clear if the documents that were made available reflect current information.
Leaks suggest the TPP agreement contains Investor State Lawsuit provisions. Those provisions allow foreign corporations to sue (in secret, extrajudicial tribunals) American local governments for “lost future revenues” they allege are caused by local government policy. NAFTA, CAFTA and other past agreements contained Investor State provisions.
The WTO recently ordered the United States to get rid of Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) regulations on meat.
Many TPP signatories are Southeast Asian nations, home to a major shrimp industry.
If TPP passes, products like “unsanitary shrimp from Vietnam” may start appearing in American grocery stores unlabeled, watchdog group Public Citizen warns.
“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently inspects less than one percent of all seafood imports for health hazards. Even with these minimal inspections, high levels of fecal contamination have been found in imported shrimp,” a Public Citizen press release notes.
“These unsafe imports would skyrocket under the TPP and further overwhelm inspectors’ limited ability to ensure the safety of our food.”