MINNEAPOLIS (Nov. 13, 2013) — When are Keith Ellison and Michele Bachmann on the same side of an issue? When it comes to giving up Congress’s role in overseeing international trade.
In separate letters, Rep. Bachmann and all 5 democratic house members expressed their opposition to a legislative maneuver known recently as Trade Promotion Authority, but more commonly referred to as Fast Track.
Fast Track means that instead of a trade agreement going through the normal legislative process, new trade agreements would not be able to be amended, debate would be limited, and the house would be forced to vote on them within 60 days of submission. A Fast Track bill would also include Congress’s priorities for trade agreements, however the administration would not have to abide by them, and the priorities are not enforceable.
The 5 Minnesota Democratic members, along with 146 other congressional Democrats, expressed deep concern about the secrecy which has surrounded the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement negotiations. This agreement includes 11 other Pacific Rim countries and comprises, at the moment, just under 40% of the entire world economy. Much skepticism has also been expressed that under Fast Track, the final TPP text, likely to be hundreds of thousands of pages long, will be able to be scrutinized carefully in only two months before Congress has to take an up or down vote.
“I’m not against trade…” says Rep. Keith Ellison, quoted earlier this year, “But they’re not really about trade. They’re really investment deals between international corporations. They’re saying we want to get a race to the bottom so we can exploit the most unfortunate worker.”
Indeed, Minnesota has a record of being on the losing end of these deals. The Economic Policy estimates that Minnesota has lost nearly 14,000 jobs due to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and over 72,000 jobs to China since it was granted permanent normal trade relations in 2000.
“We applaud these members standing up to the largest corporations in the world who are pushing for this horrible policy,” says Josh Wise, Executive Director of the Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition, “Fast Track undermines the ability of our elected representatives to stand up for the communities that they were elected to represent. We support robust international trade, but we need to make sure that every single clause of these trade deals is in the best interest of working families in Minnesota.”
The Republican letter, signed by Rep. Bachmann and 21 other GOP members, makes the constitutional case for not supporting Fast Track. It states, “The founders established a clear check and balance to prevent the president from unilaterally negotiating with foreign nations and imposing trade policies that Congress would deem to be against national interest… And by requiring the house to vote on the bill with in a preset period of time, it takes the floor schedule out of the hands of the majority and gives it to the president.”
The Obama administration has asked for Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and for a possible free trade agreement with the European Union. No bill has been introduced yet, but Michael Froman, the current United States Trade Representative, has asked for a bill to be passed by the end of the year.
The Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition formed in 1991, in opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement. Our membership has since grown to include over 75 labor, family farm, environmental, faith , small business and social justice organizations across the state of Minnesota. We are united in the belief that trade policy should reflect the interests and values of working people and the environment. Our mission is to create, promote and support fair trade policy that improves our quality of life in Minnesota and around the globe.