Monday, June 10, 2013

Maine to Congress: Don't pull a fast one on America by fast tracking trade deals

(UPDATES with new 9th graf to add the senate approved the resolution too.)

Maine lawmakers want Congress to vet every word of an upcoming trade deal to make sure it doesn't harm American families.

Mainers don't think members of Congress should pull a fast one on American workers with "fast track" legislation that doesn't let them examine trade deals before they're passed.

Many in Congress seem open to approving fast track for trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Maine's state lawmakers think that's a bad idea.

Maine's Legislature approved a joint resolution last week calling on Congress to reject fast track as a way to pass the TPP and the upcoming Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA). The resolution points out that fast track violates the U.S. Constitution, which requires the Senate to negotiate trade pacts.

The Maine lawmakers made it clear in the resolution that they're not against trade, they're just against unfair trade:
...the State strongly supports international trade when fair rules of trade are in place and seeks to be an active participant in the global economy, and the State seeks to maximize the benefits and minimize any negative effects of international trade.
They're concerned that the upcoming trade deals will exchange safe American products for foods that make our families sick. Both the TPP and TAFTA could override the state's authority to protect the public health and safety:
...existing trade agreements ... can undermine Maine's constitutionally guaranteed authority to protect the public health, safety and welfare...
Maine's representatives passed the resolution on Thursday, and state senators adopted the same language on Friday.

As stated in the resolution:
We ... request that the President of the United States, the United States Congress and the United States Trade Representative seek to develop a new middle ground approach to consultation that meets the constitutional requirements for treaty review and approval while at the same time allowing the United States Trade Representative adequate flexibility to negotiate the increasingly complicated provisions of international trade treaties.
Unfortunately, the Maine resolution carries no federal weight on its own. However, if states join together to oppose fast track, Congress will have to begin to listen.