Fast Track legislation that would allow the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other trade proposals to be rushed through Congress has been met by a tidal wave of resistance.
The so-called “Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014” (HR 3830 / S 1900), also known as Fast Track, was introduced by Ways & Means Committee Chair David Camp (R-MI) and outgoing Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) on January 9. Within hours, numerous labor, environmental and consumer organizations, as well as Congressional leaders, had issued strong statements condemning the bill.
“The Camp-Baucus legislation would enable TPP negotiators to hide all their proposals from public scrutiny until after the pact is signed, amendments are prohibited and changes become all-but-impossible,” explained Arthur Stamoulis, executive director of Citizens Trade Campaign (CTC). “It is the legal mechanism for taking the public out of the trade policy-making equationm while maintaining and amplifying the influence of the TPP’s approximately 600 cleared corporate advisors.”
Less than three weeks later, CTC had collected signatures from 564 organizations opposing Fast Track for the TPP on a joint letter to Congress that read, “After decades of devastating job loss, 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 Congress and the public play a much more meaningful role in determining the contents of U.S. trade agreements… [The Camp-Baucus bill] 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.”
Meanwhile, the public was also taking action. Over 10,000 Americans called Congress during the week of the President’s State of the Union Address — many mobilized through the website StopFastTrack.com. Even more sent emails.
At the end of January, upwards of 100,000 people turned out to more than 50 demonstrations and other events as part of a coordinated TPP Day of Action, with activists in the United States making a special push for their Congress people to come out against Fast Track (see photos here).
As a result of these and other efforts, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and numerous other Members of Congress have spoken out against the Camp-Baucus Fast Track bill, leading some casual observers to prematurely declare the death of Fast Track.
Fast Track proponents are on the ropes, but they have by no means given up. The White House, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other Fast Track boosters announced plans to redouble their Fast Track campaign in February and future months. People who care about the economy, the environment, public health and democracy will need to keep the pressure up and remain vigilant.