World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 


Legislation to Provide Fast Track Trade Authority introduced

Legislation to Provide Fast Track Trade Authority for President Obama Finally Introduced, But Can It Pass?

Considerable House Opposition on Day One, Tight Calendar in Election Year

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Legislation introduced today by U.S. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and U.S. Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), which would revive the controversial Fast Track trade authority, faces long odds for approval in the 113th Congress, Public Citizen said today.

Both Democratic and Republican presidents have struggled to persuade the U.S. Congress to delegate its constitutional trade authority via the Nixon-era Fast Track scheme. Fast Track has been in effect for only five years (2002-2007) of the 18 years since passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the agreement that created the World Trade Organization (WTO).

With a large bloc of Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives already having announced opposition to the old Fast Track process at the heart of Camp-Baucus bill, the prospects are limited for the Obama administration to secure passage in the first half of 2014 before lawmakers’ attention turns to midterm elections. In November 2014, the entire House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate will stand for election.

The first session of the 113th Congress was consumed with negotiations among Ways and Means and Finance Committee leaders that could not produce a consensus bill. The senior Democrat on the House trade committee, Ways and Means Ranking Member Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) has announced opposition to the legislation introduced today. He sought changes to the old process to enhance Congress’ role.

“While the Obama administration undoubtedly will tout the introduction of Fast Track legislation to pressure Trans-Pacific Partnership countries to make concessions, the prospects that Fast Track will be enacted are doubtful given the opposition of so many congressional Democrats and Republicans and the limited time before attention turns to the 2014 elections,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

Introduction of legislation in the U.S. Congress often results in a dead end. By way of context, in the last Congress, 10,445 bills were introduced, with only 272 – less than 3 percent – becoming law. In the current Congress, only one percent of introduced bills have become law (64 of 5,713 bills).

Fast Track is controversial among Democrats and Republicans because it would empower the president to sign a trade pact before Congress votes on it with a guarantee that the executive branch can write legislation to implement the pact and alter wide swaths of existing U.S. law and obtain both House and Senate votes within 90 days. That legislation is not subject to markup and amendment in committee, all amendments are forbidden during floor votes and a maximum of 20 hours of debate is permitted in the House and Senate.

“Congress’ willingness to support Fast Track has declined markedly because ‘trade’ agreements have increasingly invaded Congress’ domestic policymaking prerogatives,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “In addition, Democratic and Republican presidents alike have consistently ignored the negotiating objectives included in Fast Track, but the way the process is structured, Congress has given away its authority to do anything about it.”

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, for which President Obama seeks Fast Track authority, includes chapters on patents, copyright, financial regulation, energy policy, procurement, food safety and more that would constrain the policies on these matters that Congress and state legislatures can maintain or establish.

President George W. Bush spent two years and extraordinary political capital to obtain the 2002-2007 Fast Track grant, which passed a Republican-controlled House by one vote and expired in 2007.

A two-year effort by President Bill Clinton to obtain Fast Track trade authority during his second term in office was voted down on the House floor in 1998 when 171 Democrats were joined by 71 Republicans who bucked then-Speaker Newt Gingrich. Clinton did not have Fast Track for six of his eight years in office, but still implemented more than 130 trade agreements, including granting Most Favored Nation status to China, which led to China’s WTO access.

“It’s rare these days that across the aisle, Congress agrees on anything, so it is notable that a large bipartisan bloc insists on maintaining Congress’ exclusive constitutional authority over trade,” said Wallach.

A letter sent to President Obama in November, 2013 by 151 House Democrats called for creation of a new mechanism for trade agreement negotiations and approval, declaring that “Twentieth Century ‘Fast Track’ is simply not appropriate for 21st Century agreements and must be replaced.”

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

As Health Needs Rise In Somalia, Funding Hits New Low

As health needs rise in Somalia, funding hits new low, cutting off 1.5 million from care – UN More>>

Need To End Violence Against Children In Conflict

‘We should be outraged’ more not being done to end violence against children in conflict – UNICEF chief More>>

On Mandela Day, UN Joins Call To Promote Community Service

Nelson Mandela, then Deputy President of the African National Congress of South Africa, raises his fist in the air while addressing the Special Committee Against Apartheid in the General Assembly Hall. UN Photo/P. Sudhakaran More>>

Some $3.2 Billion Needed For Ebola Recovery Efforts

Some $3.2 billion needed for Ebola recovery efforts in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – UN More>>

World Day: UN Spotlights Plight Of Vulnerable Populalations

Syrian refugees fleeing the fighting near the Syrian city of Kobani wait in a holding area before boarding buses in Turkey (September 2014). Photo: UNHCR /I. Prickett More>>

Afghanisatan: Direct Talks Between Government And Taliban

The United Nations Security Council has welcomed the recently held direct talks between Afghan Government and Taliban representatives as a step towards “peace and reconciliation” in the region. More>>

Eradicating World Hunger By 2030

Agriculture workers collect carrots on a farm in Chimaltenango, Guatemala. Photo: World Bank/Maria Fleischmann More>>

Bangladesh: Flood Leads To UN Agency Providing Food Relief

Anwar Hossain unloads cartons of High Energy Biscuits from a pickup truck and transfers them to a distribution center in Kawar Khop union, Ramu upazila, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo: WFP/Kamrul Mithon More>>

Ban Says World Must Act Now To Curb Climate Change

Alarmed by melting glacier in Norway, Ban says world must 'act now' to curb climate change More>>

UN Spotlights Data And Technology As Key To Sustainability

The importance of quality data and cutting edge information communication technologies (ICTs) is increasingly critical to the shaping of the future sustainable development agenda, the head of the United Nations Development Programme ( UNDP ) confirmed today. More>>

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
World
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news