To: The United States House of Representatives and The United States Senate
Congress: Don't renew "fast track" authority
The White House and the U.S. Trade Representative are urging Congress to abdicate some of its power over approval of trade agreements by renewing "fast track" authority. Fast track would allow the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership to leapfrog customary legislative protocol and be put to a rapid "up or down" vote without a public hearing or amendments, and with limited floor debate. Forcing Congress to vote on an agreement this complex without adequate time for open hearings, review, and public scrutiny, sets a dangerous precedent. Congress, we urge you: just say NO to fast track!
Why is this important?
For nearly five years, a group of some 600 multinational corporations and trade associations have been quietly negotiating a trade pact IN SECRET that could void American laws that protect workers, jobs, health, and the environment. During negotiations in 2012 news leaked of some of the provisions U.S. trade officials were prepared to approve, and a public outcry derailed the talks. Trade Representative Ron Kirk resigned. When Michael Froman was confirmed as the new U.S. Trade Representative in 2013, the push to renew "fast track" authority began again in earnest. Despite more leaks of disturbing provisions in the TPP text in 2013, on January 9, 2014, both the House and Senate introduced "Fast Track" bills. The White House and many of the corporate "trade advisers" are turning up the heat on Congress to vote for the "Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014." If this bill becomes law, President Obama would be able to sign an agreement first, and then force a quick vote in Congress without any public scrutiny, with no revisions, and with limited floor debate.
Rep. Keith Ellison has called TPP "the largest corporate power grab you've never heard of." Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, (who happens to share my name!) is one of just four U.S. Senators who voted against Froman's confirmation this summer. She said of TPP, “I have heard the argument that transparency would undermine the Trade Representative’s policy to complete the trade agreement because public opposition would be significant.” Warren explained, “In other words, if people knew what was going on, they would stop it. This argument is exactly backwards. If transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the United States.”
The only TPP language made public has been through Wikileaks - with analysis by Public Citizen, and recently, by environmental groups. Trade officials have kept a tight lid on the negotiations and have only recently allowed members of Congress to view (not copy) the text, which remains "classified." Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida, who has viewed the text, has repeatedly spoken out in opposition to this limitation placed on members of Congress. Among the most disturbing revelations in the leaked TPP language, that seems to be mirrored in the Atlantic version as well: Foreign companies would have "preferred status" – granting them greater rights within our borders than our own companies enjoy. U.S. companies would have more incentives to offshore jobs, and foreign companies would not be bound by the minimum wage and could sue the U.S. if our health, safety, or environmental regulations interfered with their profits. Jurisdiction over such suits would rest not in the hands of elected officials or judges, but with an international business tribunal. Their decisions, which would be binding upon all member nations, would supersede our own laws. TPP is a direct threat to American sovereignty. Members of Congress who vote to grant Fast Track authority for the TPP are voting against democracy. That is something we as constituents must tell them we will remember when we go to the polls this fall.