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Trade Promotion Authority (a.k.a. ‘Fast Track’)

Trade Promotion Authority (a.k.a. ‘Fast Track’)

Letter carriers may be hearing this week about something called Trade Promotion Authority, also known as “Fast Track.” It may be the most important issue for America’s unions in the first months of the new Congress.

Essentially, “Fast Track” is a policy that gives the executive branch the opportunity to negotiate—out of public view—trade agreements and to send those agreements to Congress for simple “yes or no” votes.

When Congress receives trade agreements under “Fast Track” authority, representatives and senators have no ability to amend the agreement and its implementing bill. In addition, they cannot send the agreement back to the executive branch with instructions for improvement. They can only vote “yes” or “no” on the proposed agreement.

Trans Pacific Partnership (a.k.a. ‘TPP’)

A pending free-trade agreement, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (also known as “TPP” and “NAFTA on Steroids”) is the reason that “Fast Track” authority is currently on the table.

The United States has been negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership with 11 other countries from North America and the Asia-Pacific region: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Labor opposition to ‘Fast Track’

Trade itself is not inherently bad. But trade agreements negotiated in secret, with little or no input from elected representatives and the public, have the potential to cause real damage. This is particularly true when trade agreements include a focus on regulatory issues, labor law, government procurement, and other areas of economic policy.

Trade policies adopted in the past under “Fast Track” have cost the United States millions of jobs, have contributed to more than 60,000 factories shutting down and have exacerbated rising income inequality here in the U.S. and around the globe.

A major concern is that the TPP would impose limits on U.S. government policies that Americans rely on for things such as safe food and a clean environment. In addition, domestic federal, state and local policies would be required to comply with TPP rules. Further, the TPP would elevate individual corporations and investors to equal standing with each TPP signatory country’s government. What’s good for corporations is not always what’s good for workers.

According to Public Citizen, “The TPP would expand the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) ‘trade’ pact model that has spurred massive U.S. trade deficits and job loss, downward pressure on wages, unprecedented levels of inequality and new floods of agricultural imports.”

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