Fair trade advocates praised the release on Nov. 13 of
a letter voicing broad Congressional opposition to Fast Track, a
policy-making process that allows trade pacts to circumvent ordinary
Congressional review, amendment, and debate procedures.
spearheaded by Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and George Miller (D-CA),
was signed by three quarters of the House Democratic Caucus, and comes on top
of other recent letters signed by 27 Republicans as well as Democratic members of the
Ways & Means Committee. Taken together, the statements demonstrate a strong
bipartisan demand for better oversight over the pending Trans-Pacific
Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement than Fast Track would allow.
"With trade negotiators rushing to conclude the massive
Trans-Pacific Partnership, it's heartening that so many Members of Congress are
standing up and demanding that each provision of the pact be scrutinized to ensure
that it is in the best interests of working families," said United
Brotherhood of Carpenters General President Douglas J. McCarron. "The
middle class cannot afford for the TPP to become a 'NAFTA of the Pacific,' and
at this stage in the game, only real Congressional oversight and intervention
will prevent that from occurring."
"The Trans-Pacific deal will affect working families,
environmental protections, energy policy, food safety, and more," said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.
"Congress is right to want to do its job and have oversight over expansive
trade pacts. Using Fast Track is like removing the seat belts and airbags from
a vehicle and racing it toward its final destination. It's an egregious way to
speed up trade deals, which all too often put foreign corporations before
families and communities."
Congress Asserts Right to Take Part in TPP Formation
151-signature DeLauro-Miller letter sent to the President states, "we will oppose 'Fast Track' Trade Promotion Authority or any
other mechanism delegating Congress' constitutional authority over trade policy
that continues to exclude us from having a meaningful role in the formative
stages of trade agreements and throughout negotiating and approval
The signers include 18 of 21 Ranking Members from
the full committees and 73 from subcommittees, as well as other important
members of Democratic Party leadership. See a list of all 151 Representatives who signed this important letter.
While seven members of the Ways & Means Committee did
sign the DeLauro-Miller letter, an additional letter
from Democratic Ways & Means members, led by Representatives Mike
Thompson (D-CA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), was also sent to the President on
on Nov. 13, stating that any new trade authority "must reflect the changing
nature of international trade and ensure that Congress plays a more meaningful
role in the negotiating process than in the 2002 TPA [Trade Promotion
Republicans have also expressed opposition to Fast Track,
including through two letters signed by a total of 27 members. One
letter, led by Representative Walter Jones (R-NC) and signed by
diverse GOP House members from Representatives Don Young (R-AK) and John Mica
(R-FL) to Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Steve Stockman (R-TX) to Frank Lobiondo
(R-NJ) and Frank Wolf (R-VA), stated, "we do not agree to cede our
constitutional authority to the executive through an approval of a request for
'Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority.'"
"This isn't a left-right issue; it's a right-wrong issue,"
said Citizens Trade Campaign
Executive Director Arthur Stamoulis. "All Members of Congress
should add their voices to the chorus opposing Fast Track's outrageously
anti-democratic type of policy making."
Administration Wants Quick Passage--With NO Questions
The Obama administration and various corporate lobby groups
have urged Congress to pass new Fast Track legislation for the TPP and other
pending trade agreements. Fast Track first allows executive-branch negotiators to complete the pact without Congressional input and then requires Congress to take an up-or-down vote with no changes allowed.
The administration has said they are pushing to
complete the TPP negotiations by the end of this year, although few observers
believe they will meet that deadline.
be aware that the U.S. Congress will demand more of them on currency, labor,
the environment, and other topics than U.S.Trade Representative (USTR) appears to be doing,"
said Stamoulis. "Likewise,
many Members of Congress have a strong distaste for USTR's extreme positions on
medicine patents and special investment courts."