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May 29, 2009

New Jersey Takes a Closer Look at Trade Agreements

The Bergen County Record reported today that the New Jersey Assembly voted to keep a closer eye on both on how international trade agreements affect New Jersey and the process by which New Jersey commits to comply with their terms.

The Assembly approved the bill, the Jobs Trade and Democracy Act last week, 61-12. It would require the Legislature to approve of any measure that would "bind" the state to a trade agreement, and would designate four legislative "liaisons" to work on trade with the governor's office and the federal government.

The proposal would also establish a Citizens' Commission on Jobs, Trade and Democracy to "monitor trade negotiations and disputes, assess the social, environmental and economic impacts of trade agreements."

States like Maryland, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Minnesota that have passed similar legislation and Maine, California, New York, Iowa and Nevada that have introduced similar legislation this year are doing their best to improve what is a terribly flawed federal-state consultation process on trade policy.

The bill would also set up a Citizens Commission on Trade similar to those already operating in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire (and not too far off from the kind of committees on trade operating in Washington and Utah). These commissions monitor the impact of trade policy on their states, with particular attention to how pending trade deals can affect state law.

While critics cited in the article argue that this legislation creates unnecessary bureaucracy, increasing numbers of state legislatures are becoming more vigilant about the affects of trade agreements on their local economies and state laws and are calling for a greater role in the trade policymaking process.

The article closes with a quote from National Conference of State Legislatures' trade specialist Doug Farquahar.

“It's brought more attention to the issue" of how states are affected by trade laws, said Farquahar. "And so it just puts a lot more pressure on the United States Trade Office."


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If treaties are the supreme law of the land, just like Congressional legislation, how can states step in and add their two cents? It sounds like a very complicated and nuanced dance, to keep things about "interpretation" and "execution." And still, the states could be seen to be violating those trade agreements by doing so!

there needs to be major reform, but I don't think this is it. Don't know what else you could do, though.

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