Fact Sheet: Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority

Article I Section 8 of the US Constitution states: The Congress shall have Power to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations.

Congress is solely responsible for writing the laws and setting trade policy. For 200 years, this key check and balance on the president ensured that the executive branch did not hold too much unilateral power. In recent decades, presidents have seized these congressional powers through Fast Track Trade Authority. Congress should refuse to grant Fast Track Authority to the president to ensure trade represents the views of the people, not the interests of the president.

Fast Track weakens Congress in the following ways:

–       Allows the president to unilaterally select partner countries for trade pacts;

–       Allows the president to unilaterally negotiate the contents of trade agreements;

–       Allows the president to unilaterally sign complex trade agreements before Congress votes on them (NAFTA was 1,700 pages including appendices);

–       Allows the president to commit the United States to legislation that would conform with the trade agreement, such legislation can affect finance, healthcare, patents, food safety, agriculture, Internet, wages and labor conditions, environmental protection, energy, “Buy America” laws, land use and zoning, among others.

–       Commits the United States to be bound by decisions of international trade tribunals that can overrule laws passed by Congress and undermine US sovereignty;

–       Allows the president to limit the normal Congressional committee process by limiting or forbidding hearings, not allowing amendments or the drafting of laws by Congressional committees;

–       Allows the president to control the Congressional voting schedule and voting procedure, i.e. sets timetables for voting and does not allow amendments.

Hundreds of trade agreements became law without Fast Track; only 16 trade agreements required Fast Track to become law. Fast Track is used to pass unpopular trade agreements, NAFTA and the World Trade Organization, which have had undesirable consequences.

Some in Congress suggest adding “Negotiating Objectives” is sufficient. Negotiating Objectives are not enforceable and have been ignored by previous presidents. In the case of the TPP there have been more than three years of negotiations, including 19 rounds, so Negotiating Objectives are window dressing and will not alter the TPP. While 600 corporate advisers have helped negotiat the TPP, Congress has been kept out.

As a candidate, President Obama said he would replace the anti-democratic Fast Track process, but as president he now seeks Fast Track.

Members of Congress will be held responsible by voters when Fast Tracked agreements become law and undermine the economy and public health and safety.

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