By Mike Masnick September 23, 2013
Originally published in TechDirt
from the that’s-not-a-good-thing dept
We’ve talked a few times about how the USTR and the administration are asking Congress for “trade promotion authority,” which would effectively let it bypass Congressional oversight of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. In fact, in many ways the USTR has been acting as ifit already has this. The specifics of “trade promotion authority” or “fast track authority” are a bit down in the weeds, but the short version is that it’s the administration asking Congress tocompletely abdicate its authority and mandate in overseeing international trade agreements. Basically, it removes the ability of Congress to seek any fixes or amendments to a trade agreement — only allowing them to give a yes or no vote.
This might not be such a big deal if the TPP wasn’t negotiated in near total secrecy. We’ve been told that a final agreement is getting close, but no official text has been released at all. What we
know of the IP section is one draft that leaked out from well over a year ago. And, now, we’re going to get a product that will be released to the public with little time for debate and no way to make changes should the public point out how ridiculous and dangerous it is.
And, of course, President Obama is insisting it’s necessary to undermine the authority of Congress with a secret agreement that will have tremendous impact on Americans… just because he wants it. He announced to “the President’s Export Council” that “We’re going to need Trade Promotion Authority.” Let’s be clear: the only reason the administration “needs” TPA is so that it can ram through the agreement without letting Congress do its oversight job. Trade Promotion Authority offers no benefit to the public at all. All it does is make sure that the USTR has less oversight and fewer limitations on selling out the public for a few big special interests.
The “Export Council” which is basically made up of leaders of those big special interests who are looking for protectionist (not “free trade”) policies that help their bottom line, but harm the American public, made an even more ridiculous statement:
“We believe that new TPA legislation is critical to America’s trade leadership in the world,” the group said in one of eight letters to Obama it approved at the meeting.
Did you get that? They’re claiming that if we actually let Congress do its Constitutionally-mandatedjob that somehow undermines America’s “trade leadership?” Does anyone take this even remotely seriously? Of course, the problem is that very few are paying attention to this. “Trade Promotion Authority” sounds boring and if some big business leaders claims it’s necessary, Congress will probably go with it — even though it subverts their own powers.
If the USTR had actually been transparent, had released negotiating texts so that the public could give feedback, and that feedback was reflected in the eventual agreements, then maybe you could see how trade promotion authority might make sense. But when you have a secret agreement, driven in large part by industry lobbyists, which the public still hasn’t been allowed to see, how could anyone possibly have a legitimate reason for suggesting that Congress abdicate its oversight role?