Liveblogging the Fast Track Fight
June 12, 2015
The historic fight over Fast Tracking the largest expansion to date of the status quo trade model is underway on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. Here we are liveblogging the debate, with real-time evaluations of the veracity of our representatives' arguments for or against Fast Track.
BREAKING: The House has just voted down the Fast Track package, dealing a major blow to the push for more-of-the-same trade deals and a major victory to the diverse coalition pushing for a new trade model. But the fight is not yet over. See here for a statement from Global Trade Watch director Lori Wallach.
Rep. Pascrell: "We want fair deals that help our workers. That's what this is all about." True: The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) includes special protections for firms that offshore U.S. jobs and would pit U.S. workers against workers in Vietnam making less than 60 cents an hour.
Rep. Beyer: "We have to do something different -- something smart, honest, brave, bold, and based on the almost unanimous consensus of American economists." Bogus: Something "different" would suggest something other than expanding the status quo trade model by extending NAFTA's job offshoring incentives, the labor and environmental standards model of Bush's last four FTAs, the parallel legal system for foreign corporations that has enabled a surge in attacks on environmental and health policies under existing pacts, etc. And this notion of a "unanimous consensus of American economists" would be news to Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, Robert Reich, and other eminent economists who have supported past trade deals but have come out against the TPP.
Rep. Sanchez: "There is nothing in this that requires other countries to bring their labor laws into compliance before this agreement takes effect." Correct: We are supposed to take it on faith that Vietnam would halt its systematic labor rights violations before the TPP would grant preferential U.S. access to Vietnamese goods. Vietnam's labor leaders have bluntly rejected that notion, stating "Promises of future reforms by the Vietnamese government should not be trusted. If fast track were passed before the above abuses are actually stopped, the hope of any real reprieve for Vietnam’s oppressed workers would fade." Similar faith was requested for the Colombia FTA, for which a non-binding "Labor Action Plan" was signed. In the four years since, more than 100 Colombian unionists have been assassinated and more than 1,300 other unionists have endured death threats.
Rep. Tiberi: "We have a trade surplus with the 20 countries that we have a trade agreement with." False: We have a $177.5 billion goods trade deficit with our 20 FTA partners, which has grown 427 percent since those deals took effect. The FTA trade deficit surge owes to soaring imports into the United States from FTA partners and lower growth in U.S. exports to those nations than to non-FTA nations. Rep. Tiberi's claim errantly counts foreign-made goods as “U.S. exports.” He includes in "U.S. exports" goods made elsewhere that pass through the United States without alteration before being re-exported abroad, despite that they support zero U.S. production jobs.
Rep. Kaptur: "It's a great deal for Wall Street. It's a great deal for transnational corporations. But for [the] Main Street shrinking middle class and millions more of our workers, it's another punch to the gut." Amen: The TPP includes deregulatory provisions that literally were written under the advisement of Wall Street banks before the financial crisis. It would empower foreign banks and transnational corporations to bypass domestic courts, go before extrajudicial tribunals of private attorneys and demand taxpayer compensation for commonsense health, environmental and financial protections. For the rest of us, the deal would put downward pressure on middle class wages, increasing income inequality and spelling a pay cut for all but the top 10 percent.
Rep. McClintock: "This is not some new power. It just restores the same negotiating process that has served us well since the 1930's." Nope: Fast Track wasn't created in the 1930's. It was crafted by Nixon in the 1970's. And unlike 1970s-era trade agreements that were narrowly focused on cutting tariffs and quotas, today's deals impose binding rules on a sweeping range of non-trade policies, undermining Congress’ authority over patents, copyright, financial regulation, energy policy, food safety, procurement, Internet policy and more. That's why Fast Track for sweeping TPP-style agreements is so controversial and why Congress has only allowed it to go into effect for five of the last 21 years.
Rep. Velazquez: "New York lost more than 374,000 manufacturing jobs since NAFTA and the World Trade Organization agreements." That's right: And New York is not alone. Across the 50 states, the record of the status quo trade model that the TPP would expand has been lost jobs, lagging exports, increasing trade deficits, and depressed wages. Click here to see how your state has fared under the status quo trade model.
Rep. Dold: "Ninety-five percent of the world's consumers are outside of the United States" Irrelevant: Less than 2 percent of those consumers live in TPP countries with consequential tariffs, most of whom live in Vietnam, where wages are too low to afford most U.S. exports.
Rep. Levin: "You put some language into this bill on currency. It's like every other negotiating objective. It's not even Swiss cheese, with lots of holes. It's the weakest kind of cheese that has no real substance to it...Those negotiating objectives really are not meaningful, they're so vague. And it's the person who negotiates it who judges whether those vague negotiating objectives have been met." Indeed: Cheese metaphors aside, Congress' negotiating objectives in the 2015 Fast Track bill, as in past Fast Track bills, are not enforceable. The bill does not condition a president’s Fast Track privileges on trade negotiators actually meeting Congress’ negotiating objectives. Under past iterations of Fast Track, Democratic and Republican presidents alike have simply ignored Congress' negotiating objectives, including ones regarding currency manipulation.
Rep. Meehan: "If we're not setting the rules on global trade, China will." False dichotomy: “We” did not write these rules. The draft TPP text was crafted in a closed-door process that granted privileged access to more than 500 official U.S. trade advisors, nine out of ten of them explicitly representing corporations. It is little surprise then that leaked TPP terms include new monopoly patent rights for pharmaceutical companies that would increase healthcare costs, limits on efforts to reregulate Wall Street, a deregulation of U.S. gas exports that could increase domestic energy prices, maximalist copyright terms that could thwart innovation and restrict Internet freedom, and new investor protections that incentivize offshoring. Good luck selling that as advancing U.S. interests. Also, the notion that the establishment – or not – of any specific U.S. trade agreement would affect China’s rising influence is contradicted by the record.
Rep. Lewis: "This Congress must be a headlight and not a taillight or history will not be kind to us." On point: History has already not been kind to members of Congress who vote against the majority U.S. public opposition to more-of-the-same trade deals. In recent elections, incumbents who voted for status quo trade deals have been unseated by fair trade candidates who attacked their votes against the majority.
Rep. Cuellar: "Who are those companies [who are] exporting? Ninety-three percent of those companies in Texas are small and medium size, so therefore this is how we create good jobs here in the United States." Misleading: Most exporting firms are small and medium size simply because most firms overall are small and medium size. The more relevant question is what share of small and medium businesses depend on exports for success. In Texas, just one out of ten small and medium businesses export any good to any country, while more than half of the state's large corporations are exporters. Exporting is primarily the domain of large corporations, not small businesses. Moreover, small businesses have actually seen their exports decline and their export shares shrink under the trade model that the TPP would expand.
Rep. DeLauro: "Fast Track denies public scrutiny. It denies debate in this House. And it relinquishes our congressional authority and does not allow us to amend a piece of legislation that will have such an effect on people's lives in this country...This trade agreement is only going to hurt [workers'] ability to have a job and to increase their wages. If we want to change that, then our job today is to vote down this bill, say no to Trade Adjustment Assistance, and say no to Fast Track." Mic drop.