Senators should vote this Tuesday to stop the "Fast-Track" bill/Trade Promotion Authority Act (TPA), which would lock in the president's power to negotiate trade deals in secret, consulting with privileged corporate advisors but without input from the public, or Congress.
Further, it would bind Congress to abdicate its democratic responsibility to review, debate and amend any trade deal, allowing only an up-or-down vote, after negotiations have concluded.
And the bill would apply for 5 years. That's right. The President elected in 2016 would benefit from this same secret power.
CPATH and others conclude that these agreements have sweeping implications for the public's health and economic wellbeing.
Rather than debate these immediate, fundamental issues of democracy, the Administration is focusing its public statements on presenting a lollipop version of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), an unfinished trade agreement with 11 other Pacific Rim nations. The terms of the TPP remain classified, and secret. But the Administration's fantasy TPP sounds somehow miraculously transformed compared with every single other one of those crummy actual trade agreements the U.S. has negotiated in the past.
You know, agreements like NAFTA, the 1994 agreement among Mexico, Canada and the U.S., that opened the floodgate to outsourcing unionized U.S. auto industry jobs to Mexico, decimating several U.S. cities. NAFTA dropped financial charges in the form of tariffs usually imposed on foreign products, so that outsourced cars and auto parts made in Mexico could be sold in the U.S. without that financial penalty. At the same time it authorized blasting cheap, U.S.-subsidized corn across the Mexican border, swamping the Mexican agriculture economy and tossing millions of Mexicans off their land and into maquilas to build cars for US automakers, working at a fraction of U.S. wages, or attempting to brave their way across the border for hazardous sub-minimum wage jobs..
Or the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement, that exposes Federal drug purchasing programs for Medicare, Medicaid and Veterans Affairs to global drug company challenges and bans reimportation of more affordable medicines from any other country into the U.S., keeping life-saving medicines out of reach for many in the U.S.
Or agreements like the U.S.-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), that squashed generic competition for prescription drugs in Guatemala and raised the price to the government and individuals for diabetes drugs by 846%, by imposing stronger and longer monopoly patent protections for brand-name pharmaceutical companies.
Or the several World Trade Organization agreements that authorized Indonesia, the world's largest producer of clove cigarettes, to file and win trade charges against the U.S. Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009, which reduced teen smoking in the U.S. by banning the sale of flavored cigarettes in the US, including cloves, though with a notable exception for menthol.
Or maybe the TPP is entirely different from agreements responsible for requiring governments to pay damages to private companies for their loss of future profits as a result of regulations that protect the safety of the air, water and food supplies. We don't know. The TPP text is classified, and secret.
The provisions of the TPP that have been leaked are disturbing. We can hope that instead Administration spokespeople are on target in stating that the TPP in fact nourishes independence, innovative ingenuity and downright spunk, to say nothing of steady employment at high incomes, of women technology innovators and telemedicine practitioners, while guaranteeing universal and perpetual internet freedom, environmental protection and an even higher standard of labor rights than those that are quickly disappearing here in the U.S. But we don't know, because the TPP text is classified, and secret.
The U.S. should certainly engage in a national debate about how to create a 21st century economy that trains and supports the workforce of the future, by allocating public funds to address the needs of a growing and aging population for health care services and housing, innovation to stem climate change and survive the California drought and reversing and repairing centuries of deliberate stigmatization of racial and ethnic minorities and women as an alternative to incarceration.
But in any case, this is not the package the Senate plans to vote on this Tuesday.
(Unfortunately, one of the few concrete steps the current Fast Track bill would take is to eliminate funds for community colleges for workers displaced by trade.)
The Senate will be voting on whether the TPP will remain secret. And whether to forfeit their right to amend the TPP, and any other trade agreement, until the year 2020.
The Senate needs to vote No on whether to proceed to a vote on Fast Track.
If you haven't already, you need to tell your Senators: Vote No on Fast Track.
The Center for Policy Analysis on Trade and Health (CPATH) brings a public health voice to the debate on trade and sustainable development. We conduct research, policy analysis and advocacy in the interest of protecting and improving the health of individuals, communities and populations; expanding access to health-related services; and advancing global economic policies that are democratic, sustainable and socially just.