“I’m against fast track,” said Reid, who told reporters he would not guarantee floor time for legislation by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who is set to leave the Senate upon his confirmation as ambassador to China.Fast-tracking, a.k.a. trade promotion authority, gives a president more authority to negotiate trade deals by limiting debate in Congress, barring amendments and requiring a vote within 90 days of an agreement's public release. In his State of the Union address Wednesday, President Obama urged Congress to back fast-tracking and the TPP. The fast-track legislation is contained in "The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act” (HR 3830/S 1900).
“We’ll see,” Reid said of the bill. “Everyone would be well advised just to not push this right now.”
A former spokesman for George Bush, Tony Fratto, said Reid's public opposition “pulled the rug out from maybe the only bipartisan economic policy left in Washington, and kicked the president in the shins for good measure. Harry Reid’s decision to block these deals cripples America’s historic role as the global leader in advancing free trade, and it is a personal embarrassment to the president.”
What ought to be a personal embarrassment is pushing yet another of the trade deals—like the North American Free Trade Agreement passed and signed in the Clinton administration—that plague the U.S. economy, and especially American workers.
Reid is far from the only Democrat who rejects fast-tracking and/or the agreement itself. In November, 151 House Democrats, including 18 of the ranking members of that body's 21 full committees, expressed their opposition in a letter to the president. At the grassroots level, some 550 unions, environmental advocates and other groups oppose fast-tracking. Many oppose the TPP outright.
Please read below the fold for more analysis.
Since the 1970s, fast-tracking has been used 16 times. But opposition has been growing since the early 1990s. Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, says:
“When Nixon cooked up this scheme 40 years ago, trade pacts covered only tariffs. Now, deals like the TPP could rewrite wide swaths of U.S. policy, currently under the control of Congress, from food safety and financial regulation to Buy American procurement to energy policy. [...]Dave Johnson, a Fellow at the Campaign for America's Future, reinforces Wallach's assessment:
“Fast Track is outdated 1970s technology being applied to 21st century realities, which is causing serious damage. It enables agreements that offshore U.S. jobs and expose our consumer and environmental laws to attack and rollback."
Our trade negotiating process, like the process that led to NAFTA and the current process for the new Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), has been “captured” by the giant, multinational corporations. Representatives of consumer, health, environmental, human rights, labor and other “stakeholders” are not part of the negotiations, while the interests of the giant corporations are represented. Contributing to this problem is that negotiators are able to later take lucrative positions with the very corporations that can benefit from the results of the negotiations.The forces behind TPP aren't going to roll over, of course. Too much is at stake. But Reid's forceful opposition combined with that of three-fourths of the House Democratic caucus and a battalion of grassroots foes means the chances of its being approved any time soon are slim to none. Two hurrahs for that.