For years we have had trade authority granted to presidents as “fast track” authority so the treaties don’t become bidding wars in Congress. The treaty has to be voted up or down as a single entity. This has been done under Democrat and Republican presidents with Republicans usually more in favor of free trade. Under Bill Clinton, we had The North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA which was controversial on issues like Mexican truck drivers qualifications.
Obama has delayed a trade treaty with Columbia for political reasons for years until the GOP dominated Congress ratified the treaty in 2012, eight years after it was negotiated under Bush.
Colombia’s Congress approved the agreement and a protocol of amendment in 2007. Colombia’s Constitutional Court completed its review in July 2008, and concluded that the Agreement conforms to Colombia’s Constitution. President Obama tasked the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative with seeking a path to address outstanding issues surrounding the Colombia FTA. The United States Congress then took on the agreement and passed it on October 12, 2011. The agreement went into effect on May 15, 2012.
At present President Obama is asking for “fast Track Authority” and may finally get it but the opposition is different this time.
The House will vote Friday on a bill that would give fast-track trade authority to President Barack Obama, a measure likely headed for passage in a close vote after months of lobbying by the White House and business groups.
Representative Kevin McCarthy, the California Republican who is majority leader, set out in a memo to lawmakers a two-day vote schedule designed to solidify support of Democrats who will back the bill. The House begins Thursday with a measure to promote trade with poorer countries.
Not all Republicans are on board, many because much of the bill is secret.
Regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership, for example, there are around 30 major “chapters” being negotiated, many of which would reshape the rules and legal environment for business in the 21st century. Only a few of these 30 chapters directly involve “market access,” such as tariff rates and quota restrictions. Many more deal with cross-border investment, investor-state relations and international business regulation. Fast-track authority granted now would enable the administration to negotiate fundamental changes in business law and regulation without democratic scrutiny of the deals until it’s too late.
Both left and right are concerned about the secrecy. There have been disclosures of alleged portions of the bill.
The latest trove of secret trade documents released by Wikileaks is offering opponents of the massive deals currently being crafted by the Obama administration more fodder to show that such agreements can impact United States laws and regulations.
The latest leak purports to include 17 documents from negotiations on the Trade In Services Agreement, a blandly named trade deal that would cover the United States, the European Union and more than 20 other countries. More than 80 percent of the United States economy is in service sectors.
According to the Wikileaks release, TISA, as the deal is known, would take a major step towards deregulating financial industries, and could affect everything from local maritime and air traffic rules to domestic regulations on almost anything if an internationally traded service is involved.
Supporters, like the Wall Street Journal, which is using ad hominem style on opponents, are not addressing the arguments. The comments to the Journal article show it is not working.
A big free-trade vote is headed for the House floor as soon as Friday, and opponents have launched a honeypot operation to ply the dumber or more partisan Republicans into defeating the bill. Protectionists on the right claim that President Obama can’t be trusted, and their last gasp is to claim the bill includes secret new immigration powers that are nowhere in the bill.
I was not the only commenter who asked how they know this since the bill is secret. Supporters say the concerns are unfounded.
Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), pointed to the fast-track bill as a way to ensure people get to see what is in the deals before they pass, noting that under fast track, the president would have to unveil each proposal and wait for two months before Congress could vote on it.
“If secrecy is a concern, TPA is the solution,” Buck said. “For the first time, it will ensure a trade agreement is public and posted online for 60 days before it can be sent to Congress.”
If so, why is the bill a secret ?
This is the president who famously said, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.”
The problems seems to be a fundamental one of trust. After the Obama amnesty, who thinks he will respect the Constitution on trade agreements ?