At 3:28 in the morning on July 27, 2002, in an extended voting session, the House passed the Trade Act of 2002 (H.R. 3009) by a slim 3-vote margin. On August 1st, the bill was passed in the Senate.
The Trade Act’s main provision was Fast Track negotiating authority, also known as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). The Fast Track mechanism involves special procedures for the negotiation, consideration, and implementation of trade agreements. The U.S. Constitution gives Congress authority over setting the terms of international commerce, and the Executive branch jurisdiction over negotiations with foreign nations. Fast Track, however, delegates Congresses’ authority to the Executive branch so that the Administration is granted the power to negotiate trade agreements, draft implementing legislation to change U.S. law, and sign agreements into international law. Congress’s involvement is restricted to 20 hours of debate and an up or down vote on the final bill with no amendments allowed. Fast Track is an anomaly in terms of legislative procedure in which Congress generally goes through a multi-step process of writing, debating, and amending legislation.
Fast Track was created in 1974, when international trade agreements primarily dealt with tariffs and quotas. Today, trade agreements have grossly expanded, involving anything from domestic environmental and public health laws to tax and zoning regulations. Because of the far-reaching nature of contemporary trade agreements, more public scrutiny and checks and balances are needed, not less.
In addition to the constraints of the Fast Track procedure, TPA established negotiating objectives for future trade agreements which rather than establishing meaningful objectives on labor and environmental protections, investment provisions, and other crucial areas, afford the Administration a blank check. In several cases, the negotiating objectives in TPA are a step backwards from those in previous grants of Fast Track authority.
That last granting of Fast Track expired on July 1, 2007 and would require a new vote by Congress to be renewed. On January 9, 2014, House Ways & Means Chair David Camp (R-MI) and Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) introduced legislation to revive the 2002 Fast Track mechanism. Their bill was met with immediate and widespread opposition.
Fast Track News
Widespread Opposition to the Camp-Baucus Fast Track Legislation Citizens Trade Campaign, January 9, 2014
Congress Voices Bipartisan Opposition to Fast Track Citizens Trade Campaign, November 13, 2013
Congress Must Vet the Pacific Rim Trade Proposal Teamsters, July 10, 2013
Two-thirds of Democratic Freshmen Sign Letter Opposing Fast Track Citizens Trade Campaign, June 10, 2013
Hundreds of US Organizations Urge Congress to Replace Fast Track Citizens Trade Campaign, March 4, 2013
US Dairy Sector Asks Congress to Replace Fast Track Citizens Trade Campaign, March 4, 2013
Fast Track Authority for Trans-Pacific Trade Deal Opposed Ag Web, March 4, 2013
White House Says It Will Seek Fast Track Trade Authority Reuters, March 1, 2013
Corporate Support Builds for Renewing Obama’s Trade Agreement Fast Track Authority The Hill, February 24, 2013
Fast Track Powers Needed for US-Pacific Trade Deal, Kirk Says Bloomberg, February 29, 2012
Past Fast Track News
Romney Wants Presidential Trade Power Associated Press, November 1, 2007
Bush Losing “Fast Track” Trade Power Associated Press, July 2, 2007
713 Groups Sign Letter Telling Democratic Leadership “No” to Fast Track Release
Interfaith Working Group Letter Opposing Fast Track Renewal March 27, 2007
Fast Track to Nowhere International Association of Machinists Media Library, March 2007
Steelworkers President Cites New AFL-CIO Direction on Trade Policy Statement by USW President Leo Gerard, March 7, 2007
Fast Track or the Right Track? AFL-CIO Executive Council Trade Resolution, March 6, 2007
Restoring the American Dream Through Fair Trade, Not Free Trade Change To Win Statement, March 6, 2007
Labor, Environmental, Farm Leaders Say NO Fast Track Renewal Steelworkers President Leo Gerard, UNITE HERE President Bruce Raynor, Sierra Club President Carl Pope, National Farmers Union President Tom Buis, and Friends of the Earth President Brent Blackwelder tell reporters Congress must change course on trade. [Because of the size of this file, it will be quicker to right click the link and “save target as” onto your computer, then open it with your media player.]
Labor, Greens Denounce Trade Policy Washington Times, February 14, 2007
CTC Trade Strategy Summit Launches Plan to Translate Midterm-Election Fair-Trade Mandate into New US Trade Policy Citizens Trade Campaign Press Release, February 6, 2007
A New, Green Vision is Need for Trade Statement of Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of the Earth, and Sierra Club, January 31, 2007
Statement of Lori Wallach, Director of Global Trade Watch Hearing on Trade and Globalization, House Ways and Means Committee, January 30, 2007
Letter in Opposition to Fast Track Citizens Trade Campaign, August 1, 2002
Fast Track to Lost Jobs Economic Policy Institute, October 2001
Fast Track Talking Points Public Citizen
Fast Track Wins, Workers Lose with Senate Trade Vote AFL-CIO