Last Friday, Maine became the fifth state to safeguard democratic decision-making in international trade negotiations. LD 1257, introduced by Rep. Sharon Treat (D-Hallowell), passed unanimously by the legislature, and signed into law by Governor Baldacci on June 12, establishes a sensible process for responding to requests from the United States Trade Representative regarding state commitments to non-tariff provisions of trade pacts like subfederal procurement provisions. In short, since committing to these provisions of trade pacts has the potential to affect state laws, the state government has decided to let the Maine legislature make the call.
“Trade agreements have major implications for state laws and policy, and can override our environmental, public health and even insurance laws,” said Rep. Treat. “Right now, states have little to no say in the details of trade policy, and often find out about these agreements after the fact. This law will help ensure that the Maine Legislature is ‘in the loop’ and that a Governor cannot bind the state to a treaty’s provisions without specific legislation authorizing that action.”
Sarah Bigney, an organizer for the Maine Fair Trade Campaign which supported LD 1257 says:
"The fact that this bill passed unanimously through both chambers goes to show that this is not a partisan issue. State's rights are very important to Mainers. We at the Maine Fair Trade Campaign feel that legislation our state and country pass, like important environmental and public health laws, must not be subject to challenge in the name of profits. Our coalition of 53 organizations across the state is very proud of the Maine Legislature and Governor Baldacci for continuing to lead the way on fair trade policy."
Maryland, Rhode Island, Hawaii, and Minnesota are the other states that have established legislative approval processes similar to Maine.