Obamatrade “fast track” power grab ready for President’s signature
by Deborah Nelson
June 25, 2015
“Fast track” legislation that cedes Congressional authority to write trade laws has passed the Senate and is on its way to the President for signature.
District 1 U.S. House Representative Jeff Miller and Senator Bill Nelson voted “yes” to the measure. Senator Marco Rubio did not vote.
The Senate vote tally is here.
The legislation will allow President Obama to write trade legislation and present it to Congress for a yes or no vote, with no Senate filibuster, debate limited to 20 hours, and no Congressional amendments.
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.
This renewed “fast track” authority is expected to pave the way for more so-called “free trade” agreements with Pacific Rim and European nations.
Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations have been underway between the U.S. and United States and 11 Pacific Rim nations – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam – throughout Obama’s tenure.
Obama has been criticized for negotiating with Malaysia despite documented evidence of a widespread slave trade.
Fast Track would also facilitate a separate, U.S.-Europe deal called the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA). TAFTA is also called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
Called “NAFTA on Steroids,” TPP negotiations have been closed to the public, including Congress and the press. The secret talks include Obama administration trade envoys, representatives from foreign governments participating in the pact, and over 500 banks and corporations. Congressional members now have limited access to view the agreement’s text in a sealed room, but may not bring other people or take notes or photos.
The agreement has been criticized for removing Congress’ authority to control immigration. Watchdog group Public Citizen also says leaks show the agreement contains provisions to offshore American jobs, roll back Wall St. reforms, reduce Internet freedom, ban “Buy American” policies, raise medicine costs, expose Americans to unsafe food and allow foreign corporations to dictate American government policy.
Although the public have been banned from TPP proceedings, a number of leaks affirm the agreement contains investor state lawsuit provisions.
Investor state lawsuits allow corporations, including foreign ones, to sue governments for policies they allege “interfere with profits.” Taxpayers foot the bill for “damages.” Investor State lawsuits are mediated in secret tribunals, subject to United Nations rules.
“Although it is called a “free trade” agreement, the TPP is not mainly about trade. Of TPP’s 29 draft chapters, only five deal with traditional trade issues,” according to Public Citizen. The group has challenged secretive trade processes and “free trade” provisions in NAFTA, CAFTA and other agreements they contend harm America’s economy.
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 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.”
Reach Congressman Miller at 850-479-1183.
A previous version of “fast track” was derailed in the U.S. House when a separate, “Trade Adjustment Assistance” measure to protect workers displaced by “free trade” did not pass. That bill’s passage was necessary to pass the first fast track measure. Miller voted ‘yes’ on that first bill.
The House passed a new bill that did not contain the worker protection shortly thereafter, which Miller also voted ‘yes’ to. That bill immediately went forward to the Senate, where it passed yesterday. Nelson voted “yes.”