As anticipated, Trade Promotion Authority (also known as Ryan-Hatch fast track) legislation was introduced to Congress last week in an effort to speed passage of two huge secret trade deals–the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)–agreements that could negatively impact farmers and ranchers, jobs, natural resources and our democracy.
We need your support now more than ever to stop Fast Track. Join more than 500 organizations nationwide who have already endorsed a letter telling Congress to vote “NO” on Fast Track. Please take a few minutes to read the sign-on letter below and add your organization’s support to the national coalition.
The undersigned organizations urge you to oppose the Ryan-Hatch Fast Track bill formally dubbed “The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015.”
This legislation would revive the outdated and unsound 2002 Fast Track “Trade Promotion Authority” mechanism. The same failed Camp-Baucus-Hatch trade authority proposal of last session is at the core of this bill, which would undermine Congress’ ability to have a meaningful role in shaping the contents of trade agreements.
This year’s bill includes several negotiating objectives not found in previous Fast Track iterations. However, the Fast Track process that this legislation would reestablish ensures that these objectives are entirely unenforceable. If this legislation were enacted, the president could sign and enter into a trade agreement before Congress votes on it — whether or not the negotiating objectives have been met. It would allow the executive branch to write legislation, not subject to committee markup, that would implement the pact and be guaranteed House and Senate votes within 90 days, with all amendments forbidden and a maximum of 20 hours of debate, whether or not the agreement met Congress’ negotiating objectives.
While the Ryan-Hatch bill does contain provisions that would ostensibly enable Congress to strip Fast Track authority from trade agreements, these provisions are, in fact, more difficult for Congress to trigger than simply voting down a fast tracked agreement in the first place. This bill does virtually nothing to increase Congressional oversight over trade policymaking.
Provisions of the bill touted as improving public access to trade texts fail to match even the level of transparency found in past practice. Worse still, transparency provisions in Ryan-Hatch would actually lock-in the unacceptable practice of requiring congressional staff to have security clearances to view any draft trade pact text.
Put simply, this is the same failed Fast Track process that has delivered harmful trade agreements again and again.
Fast Track was designed in the 1970s when trade negotiations were focused on cutting tariffs and quotas. Today’s pending “trade” agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), are much broader, and would set binding policy on Congress and state legislatures relating to patents and copyright, food safety, government procurement, financial regulation, immigration, healthcare, energy, the environment, labor rights and more. Such a broad delegation of Congress’ constitutional authorities is simply inappropriate given the scope of the pending agreements and the implications for Congress’ core domestic policymaking prerogatives.
After decades of massive trade deficits, devastating job loss, downward pressure on Americans’ wages, attacks on environmental and health laws and floods of unsafe imported food under our past trade agreements, America must chart a new course on trade policy. To accomplish this, a new form of trade authority is needed that ensures that Congress and the public play a much more meaningful role in determining the contents of U.S. trade agreements.
Fast Track is an abrogation of not only Congress’ constitutional authority, but of its responsibility to the American people. We oppose this bill, and urge you to do so as well.
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