Troubled by continued secrecy in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement , over 400 civil society organizations representing more than 15 million Americans have written to Congress urging that Fast Track be replaced by a more democratic trade negotiating and approval process.
Led by Citizens Trade Campaign, more than 100 national organizations, including those representing labor, environmental, family farm, consumer, faith, public health, Native American and human rights constituencies, in addition to to nearly 300 regional, state and local organizations, sent a letter to Congress on March 4th outlining shared expectations for 21st Century trade agreements and urging an end to Fast Track and support for an alternative.
“A broad array of organizations have been following the Trans-Pacific Partnership closely, and are unhappy with the direction in which the negotiations are heading,” said Arthur Stamoulis, executive director of Citizens Trade Campaign. “Handing the executive branch Fast Track powers to rush the TPP through Congress, as some corporate lobby groups are pushing, would abdicate Congress’ constitutional authority and real-world leverage to set the terms of U.S. trade policy. We want Congress to replace Fast Track with new procedures that allow for greater oversight and public participation, so that trade agreements can become a tool for creating a more just and sustainable global economy.”
The letter includes eight broad categories that the TPP, a Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement and any other U.S. trade pact must address in order to improve quality of life for Americans and people throughout the world: (1) prioritization of human and labor rights; (2) respect for local development goals and the procurement policies that deliver on them; (3) no elevation of corporations to equal terms with governments; (4) protection of food sovereignty; (5) maintaining access to affordable medication; (6) safeguards against currency manipulation; (7) space for robust financial regulations and public services; and (8) improved consumer and environmental standards.
The letter also outlines ways to increase public participation and Congressional oversight in trade policymaking through replacement of “outdated and extreme procedures like Fast Track.” Fast Track, sometimes called “Trade Promotion Authority,” is a Nixon-era trade agreement negotiating and approval procedure that delegates Congress’ exclusive constitutional authority to “regulate Commerce with foreign nations” to the executive branch and enables trade pacts to circumvent ordinary Congressional review, amendment and debate procedures. The President’s 2013 Trade Policy Agenda, released on Friday, March 1, indicates that the administration intends to request new Fast Track legislation from the Congress.
“As the TPP enters its sixteenth major round of negotiations this week in Singapore, the Obama administration still refuses to tell the American public what it has been proposing in our names,” said Stamoulis. “This is a rollback in transparency, and an extremely undemocratic way to craft policy that is likely to influence jobs, health care costs, financial regulations, consumer safety, the environment and more for decades to come. The only way to prevent the public from being saddled with a bad agreement is for Congress to exert its authority.”
The letter points out that the United States joined with 33 other countries in releasing draft text of the Free Trade Area of the Americans in 2001, and that draft texts within the World Trade Organization are frequently made available to the public.