Friday, April 24, 2015

House, Senate panels side with corporate cronies on fast track

The House Ways and Means Committee last night misguidingly followed the lead of its Senate counterparts by approving a fast track trade promotion authority (TPA) bill that will allow secret trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to be rammed through Congress.

Demonstrators protest fast track on Capitol Hill Wednesday.
Despite the objections raised by Rep.Sander Levin (D-Mich.) and others on the panel who noted the legislation is a continuation of bad U.S. trade policy over the past two decades, a majority decided to side with big business interests by rejecting amendments by Levin and others that would have beefed up worker protections in fast track.

Levin, the panel's top Democrat, told his fellow committee members:

The TPP negotiators today are not on the right track. In some vital areas, we don't know where the USTR is heading. In other areas, we don't like where they are going. It is simply incorrect to say this TPA puts Congress in the driver's seat. Instead, it puts us in the back seat.

Meanwhile, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) said it seemed fast track supporters were speeding forward with little concern about the possible consequences of the legislation. He said there is a real need for trade to benefit all Americans:

The question is not whether we should have more trade, but what the nature of that trade should be.

The House committee, like the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday night, rejected efforts that would have bolstered currency manipulation provisions so other countries can't rise up the costs of U.S. imports while lowering their export prices to Americans. They also pushed aside concerns about language that would allow foreign corporations to sue the U.S. government over laws on the books that they think hurt their company's business.

Both the House and Senate are expected to bring the fast track bill to the floor next month. It's now even more critical that Teamsters and other fair trade advocates let their lawmakers know that fast track is the wrong track for America.