June 30, 2015: Despite widespread opposition, the House and Senate approved Trade Promotion Authority, known as Fast Track, and the President signed it into law this week.
The Obama Administration and the Republican Congressional leadership resorted to bizarre procedural steps, extensive backroom deals and arm twisting, and even retaliation against those who opposed Fast Track, in order to force it through. (The NY Times has an interesting article on some of the politics behind passing Fast Track here)
Passage of Fast Track gives Obama enhanced powers to conclude negotiations of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), and continue advancing trade negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and other such agreements. Fast Track will limit Congressional debate over trade agreements and prevent any filibusters or amendments.
While the passage of Fast Track authority is a severe setback, the fight is not over. Fast Track severely and improperly limits Congress’s role – but ultimately Congress will still have to vote to ratify any trade agreement after the President signs it.
The Administration is expected to conclude negotiations on the TPP in the next few weeks, and the text will finally be available thirty days after President Obama signs it.
Based on the leaked drafts, the TPP will almost certainly include provisions that jeopardize healthy food and farming standards, threaten U.S. jobs, promote corporate monopolies, and more. On top of the substantive provisions, it will allow multinational corporations to challenge domestic laws in international tribunals based on lost profits. The extensive problems with these tribunals are discussed in an unusual joint op-ed by the libertarian Cato Institute and the progressive Public Citizen here.
Many members of Congress who voted for Fast Track claimed that this was not a vote for the TPP. When the time comes to vote on the TPP, we must hold them accountable and pressure them to vote for the public interest over corporate profits!
While we lost the vote on Fast Track, the fight against the bill served an important role in educating members of Congress about the issues and the breadth and depth of the opposition to the TPP. Hundreds of thousands of people, both Republican and Democrat, urged their legislators to oppose the deals, so that Fast Track won by just a few votes – a stark contrast to the overwhelming votes that approved free trade agreements in 2011.
Your voice did have an impact, thank you for speaking up! We must continue working to protect our farms and food system from this threat.