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Capital Hill Watch Alert

First Fast Track Trade Vote Set In Senate

To revive President Barack Obama's trade agenda, which stalled on Tuesday, May 12, 2015, after Democrats filibustered it Senate leaders have reached a deal. Prior to moving to a wide-open debate on granting Obama Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) or fast-track authority to negotiate future trade deals, senators will vote on two controversial bills favored by Democrats under the agreement.  

The Senate will vote at noon on Thursday, May 14, 2015, on a stand-alone customs and enforcement bill that includes currency manipulation language and a stand-alone package of trade preferences for sub-Saharan Africa. To pass both measures will require 60 votes.  

Democrats have agreed to begin debate on a package consisting of TPA and Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) after the Senate votes on the customs and Africa trade measures. To give senators broad opportunity to vote on changes it will be subject to an open-amendment process. 

Scheduled for 2 p.m. on Thursday, May 14, 2015, is a vote to end a filibuster on the motion to proceed to the trade package. Set to expire at 10 p.m. is the post-cloture debate time. And expected to begin on Tuesday, May 19, 2015, are votes on amendments to the base trade package.  

So that they could stop President Obama's radical agenda, American voters gave Republican leaders majorities in first the House and then the Senate in the 2010 and 2014 elections.  However, the Republican leadership has decided to give him more power instead of stopping him.  And despite deep opposition by their base, Republican leaders are determined to advance Obama's fast-track agenda.  Congress must not cede any additional authority to President Barack Obama who has spent the past six years shredding the constitutional separation of powers.  Fast Track would be another monumental failure of congressional Republicans to stop the President's fundamental transformation of America.

So that they could stop President Obama's radical agenda, American voters gave Republican leaders majorities in first the House and then the Senate in the 2010 and 2014 elections.  However, the Republican leadership has decided to give him more power instead of stopping him.  And despite deep opposition by their base, Republican leaders are determined to advance Obama's fast-track agenda.  Congress must not cede any additional authority to President Barack Obama who has spent the past six years shredding the constitutional separation of powers.  Fast Track would be another monumental failure of congressional Republicans to stop the President's fundamental transformation of America.

Trade Statistics Misrepresented

The same lies that were used to sell previous bad deals are being used by supporterrs of Fast Track.  For example, U.S. Representative of Wisconsin Paul Ryan (R) and U.S. Senator of Texas Ted Cruz (R) have claimed that Fast Track by reducing America's huge deficits would produce jobs. They wrote in an April 22, 2015 commentary:

"The American worker can compete with anybody, if given a fair chance.  If you add up all 20 countries that the U.S. has a trade agreement with, American manufacturers run a $50 billion trade surplus with them.  The problem is that not all countries have a trade agreement with the U.S.: American manufacturers run a $500 billion trade deficit with those nations."

However, deeply deceptive is their $50 billion surplus number. For example, it involves selecting some and excluding other goods exported and imported. The U.S. ran a deficit of 61.7 billion dollars in 2014 with its Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partners indicates a complete measure of the balance of trade for all goods

Furthermore, after the free trade agreements were negotiated the U.S. trade deficits with the FTA partners got worse. The average deficit with each FTA partner was less than $0.8 billion in the year prior to implementation of each FTA.  And the average deficit with each FTA partner was over $3 billion by 2014. 

Currency-Manipulation

The “free trade” treaty that former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama negotiated with currency-manipulating South Korea is one example.  According to the calculations of University of Maryland economist Peter Morici, former director of the Office of Economics at the U.S. International Trade Commission, the FTA grew the overall U.S. trade deficit (goods plus services) with South Korea from $5.4 billion in 2011 to $13.3 billion in 2014.

At the expense of the U.S., the FTA with South Korea lets only one country grow its economy.  However, involved in the treaty that President Obama is currently negotiating is 11  countries (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam), three of which (Japan, Malaysia, and Vietnam) are active currency-manipulators committed to stopping U.S. efforts to end currency manipulation.  And expected to join later are additional currency-manipulating nations.

The legislation implicitly endorses currency manipulation which is the chief way that nations subsidize their exports and place on their imports hidden tariffs.  To a bill that encourages currency manipulation the words “free trade” should not be applied.  Trade surplus nations gain more factories, more research and development, and more economic growth by manipulating their currencies to unbalance trade. Conversely, the opposite effects such as reduced factories, reduced research and development and reduced economic growth are experienced by the trade deficit nations.

Congressional Decline

The further decline of Congressional authority under President Obama is exacerbated by “Fast Track.” For example, concerning massive and complex treaties negotiated in secret, it empowers the President to present Congress with a take-it-or leave-it demand.  Positive issues for the U.S. such as patent and copyright protection for American intellectual property and a reduction in tariffs on American agricultural products might be contained in the final trade agreements.  However, included in the final trade agreements might be negative issues for the U.S.  For example, creating a private court system that gives foreigners the right to sue the U.S. government if any law or regulation violates the treaty. And in the current draft of the treaty there is no doubt that this is included. Also, from Mexico and other treaty nations, a mandate to end congressional limits on legal immigration.   

To see what is in it, members of Congress would be well-advised to avoid voting for “Fast Track.”  To prevent the President from ignoring the wishes of the American people Fast Track should be voted down.  President Obama should be forced to negotiate the treaty and then bring it to Congress−which is a much better strategy.  This would strengthen the administration's ability to extract favorable concessions if Congress retains its power to amend the final agreement. For example, the administration can say, “that they would like to negotiate what a nation wants but that provision would likely be amended out of the treaty by Congress.”  Any deal negotiated is much more likely to be good for the American people if Congress retains its full constitutional authority.

A Private Court System

Should a future President decide to balance its trade with currency-manipulating nations through tariffs, the establishment of a private court system that would render billions of dollars of judgment against the U.S. government is the worst aspect of Fast Track. In comparison, a provision that allows trade deficit nation to impose trade-balancing tariffs is included in World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.  In 1971, President Nixon took advantage of this provision when he imposed a 10 percent across-the-board tariff, which quickly forced changes that brought by 1973 U.S. trade into balance. Currently, this provision could be used by the U.S.  As a result, the U.S. would have more factories, more research and development, and more economic growth.  However, everything would be changed by the new private court system.  For example, America's trade deficit would never be solved by future U.S. Presidents. 

Limits Congressional Power

Americans that want an economy that works for those that play by the rules and work hard and believe in the U.S. Constitution should be worried about Fast Track. To limit the power of Congress is why President Barack Obama wants Fast Track.  Congress alone has the power to “regulate commerce with foreign nations” according to Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution yet wanting to cede that power to the President are Congressional Republicans.  Broad negotiating powers for treaties are given to the President. Fast Track eliminates the 2/3 requirement for Senate ratification, eliminates amendments, limits debate and for passage of any trade agreement under allotted procedure requires a mere simple majority in both house of Congress.    

Future Congress's hands are tied by Fast Track since it cedes the power of trade agreements beyond current members' two-year terms. Since the sitting President would have to sign a new law repealing their own extra-Constitutional power to regulate trade without Congress's consent, a popular revolt against Fast Track at the ballot box would be meaningless.

American sovereignty is surrendered to foreign trade bodies such as the WTO's court system, which has full jurisdiction for all trade disputes by the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other trade agreements.   So Americans would not know where the food they are eating is coming from, TPP like previous trade agreements would bar Country of Origin Labelling (COOL) laws.  And foreign courts would be allowed to overrule U.S. federal and state courts by TPP.  For labor, environmental, tax, as well as COOL laws, this would be true.

For President Obama's nearly completed Trans-Pacific Partnership he should be denied Trade Promotion Authority or fast-track authority that enables a simple majority-vote for passage.   

 Additional Reading :

Fast-Tracking America's Economic Destruction

Sen. Jeff Sessions: Top Five Concerns With Trade Promotion Authority

Trade Authority For Obama Will Cut Congress Out Of Picture

Selling Out the Constitution and Main Street on Trade

What Can You Do?  

 Urge your senators to NOT SUPPORT   Trade Promotion Authority or fast-track trade legislation.

Contact Information:  

To go to your senators' websites, find their E-mail or to find out who your senators are... http://www.senate.gov/contacting/index_by_state.cfm     

Addressing Correspondence: 

The Honorable (full name)
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510   

Dear Senator (last name):  

 

 

 

 

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