TTIP free trade deal hit by fresh blow

Momentum against TTIP is building on both sides of the Atlantic.

Momentum against TTIP is building on both sides of the Atlantic

Progress on the path to the US-EU Free Trade Deal, known as TTIP, was hit with another blow this week, when 550 US organizations* sent a letter to US Senate finance chairman Ron Wyden firmly rejecting the fast-track trade promotion authority and calling for a new system for negotiating and implementing trade agreements.

‘Fast track’ is the US system previously used to push through trade agreements on an ‘up and down vote’ with no line by line scrutiny.

The US Congress has regularly created new trade authority mechanisms as international trade has evolved. ‘Fast track’ first went into effect under Richard Nixon in the 1970s and was last granted during the George W. Bush administration; but that law expired on June 30, 2007.

In the letter, the diverse coalition stated that fast track, an outdated mechanism that would limit Congressional and public oversight over trade negotiations, is ‘simply not appropriate’ given the broad subjects covered by today’s trade pacts, such as the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP):

“A new model of trade authority is the only way to ensure that workers and communities have a voice in these trade decisions. We want to determine what kind of economy we have, not simply accept super-power status for multinational corporations and a snails’ pace for the enforcement issues raised by the rest of us.

“Only with new trade negotiating authority can we secure new trade rules that can help hard working Americans build a sustainable economy and promote broadly shared prosperity,” said president Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO union.

Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, also called fast track the “wrong track for Americans who care about the health of our families and access to clean air, clean water, and land”.

“We need a new model of trade — one that protects communities and the environment while keeping the public engaged in the policy-making process,” he added.

In January of this year, senator Max Baucus and Congressman Dave Camp introduced a fast-track bill, the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014, which would strip Congress of its ability to amend or sufficiently debate trade pacts. Senator Ron Wyden, the current Senate finance chairman, is now drafting a new trade authority bill.

“There is no ‘acceptable’ version of fast track,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “Fast-track must be replaced so Congress can steer international trade in a new direction and create agreements that actually work for most Americans.”

Instead of fast track, the letter calls for a new model of trade authority that includes a Congressional role in selecting trade partners, a set of mandatory negotiating objectives, enhanced transparency, Congressional certification that negotiating objectives have been met before trade negotiations can conclude, and more.

“We need 21st-century trade authority that allows Congress to do its job and represent the interests of U.S. workers, consumers and communities. By any name, the flawed ‘fast track’ approach still would enable negotiators to bypass Congress and put in place new and binding agreements that have real consequences for all of us,” said Larry Cohen, president of the Communication Workers of America.

Momentum against TTIP in the USA and TTIP – CETA (the Canadian – EU Trade Deal) is building on both sides of the Atlantic, with this weeks TUC voting to totally oppose TTIP and CETA.

*The labour union federation the AFL-CIO, the Communications Workers of America, the environmental organization the Sierra Club, the Citizens Trade Campaign, and Public Citizen campaigning group

Tony Burke is assistant general secretary of Unite

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