On Thursday, leading members of the Congress announced that they had reached an agreement on issuing new legislation that would grant President Obama fast-track authority to finalize the Pacific trade deal, one of the world’s most important trade accords.
The announcement triggered a violent reaction from Democratic representatives that vowed to do anything in their power to prevent the new legislation from coming into effect. And we may see the repercussions during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Democrats already want to know Hillary Clinton’s position on the legislation which will give Obama “trade promotion authority” (T.P.A.). Ms. Clinton’s husband, Bill Clinton, was a passionate supporter of the North American Free Trade Agreement (N.A.F.T.A.) in 1994, which he pushed through Congress although Democrats and labor unions desperately opposed it.
Significant Democratic constituencies such as conservationists, trade unions, and Latino groups teamed up and are currently arguing that previous trade pacts did more harm to American workers than benefited them. They fear that the recent effort would lead to a similar result.
Thursday’s deal, which was closed by Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon, Orrin G. Hatch of Utah and Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, would grant Congress authority to vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but would deny regulators authority to amend it once it is completed.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership encompasses a dozen of nations and it would be the largest trade deal since the NAFTA.
But although its promoters claim that the U.S. economy and its consumers would benefit the most, the actual winners of the new trade agreement would be U.S. agriculture, big pharmas, tech corporations, insurers and very large manufacturers that are able to expand their exports to the other 11 nations that are involved in the agreement.
President Obama already expressed his full support on the new legislation by saying that it would give American workers “a fair shot,” would “level the playing field,” and would protect workers’ rights, an open Internet and the environment.
In a rhetoric we are already accustomed to, the President recently declared:
“Today we have the opportunity to open even more new markets to goods and services backed by three proud words: Made in America.”
But Republicans had to be open to compromise in order to win key Democrat Ron Wyden on their side. They agreed to insert human rights standards in trade agreements, which has never happened.
Moreover, according to the new bill any trade deal will be open to public comment two months before being signed by the President. Also, it will remain open to public comment two more months until Congress votes it.
Additionally, the bill ensures that any trade agreement is negotiated by the USTR and the President within Congress’ parameters related to environment, workers and human rights. If any of those parameters is overlooked, a 60-vote in the Senate could open the deal to amendment.
And to make the deal even more appealing to Democrats, the new legislation would grant workers extra protection and aid. For instance, workers that lose their jobs because of global trade would benefit trade adjustment assistance even if they work in the service sector, not just in manufacturing.
The new legislation will be quickly drafted next week before new waves of opposition could sweep it away, Republicans announced.
Image Source: The Hill