By Stephani Scruggs, Special for USDR
Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority, (TPA), is a piece of legislation that transfers Constitutional negotiation powers from Congress to the President. The President may use this power to negotiate any international trade agreement with any partner the President chooses over the next few years, (including Iran and Cuba), and to negotiate the agreements in any way the President sees fit. Under TPA, Congress agrees to give up in advance the ability to change any existing or future trade agreement, even before Congress has actually read agreements. Instead, TPA requests the President consider150 ‘negotiating objectives’ on which Congress would like the President to ‘make progress’. The President is not required to actually accomplish any of these objectives and may ignore those requests at will. In fact, the 2015 TPA bill makes clear that failure to achieve or make progress on any of the negotiating objectives shall not be cause for Congress to revoke trade authority from the President. Worst of all, by giving up its ability to amend or change any related laws and regulations the President and the World Trade Organization decide to impose on the United States; Congress is also transferring its’ law making powers to world courts.
PROBLEM 1: GIVING CONGRESS’ POWER TO OBAMA
TPA proponents like Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Ted Cruz claim that the ONLY way Congress can have a say in upcoming trade agreements is by using TPA. But either the Congressmen are completely ignorant of the Constitution…or they think you are. Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution clearly states that Congress shall have the power “To regulate commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.” So in essence, TPA proponents are trying to convince you that they have to give away their power in order to have power.
PROBLEM 2: TPA HAS NO TEETH
TPA 2015 lays out 150 “negotiating objectives” and requests that the Administration “make progress” in these areas. TPA does NOT contain a single MANDATE. In fact, TPA 2015 clearly states the failure to achieve a negotiating objective shall not be considered a reason to revoke TPA from the President. In other words, those 150 ‘negotiating objectives’ are merely suggestions Congress is hoping Obama will pretty please follow.
PROBLEM 3: TPA PREVENTS CONGRESS FROM FIXING BAD TRADE DEALS:
Once the President decides he is done negotiating a deal, he must bring it before Congress for a vote. However, TPA 2015 prevents Congress from changing even a single word of the deal; Congress cannot made amendments and Congressional debate is severely limited. In other words, Obama gets to throw a ‘take it or leave it’ trade deal on the floor, forcing Congressmen to vote for it or be accused of being against free-trade.
PROBLEM 4: GIVING CONGRESS’ POWER TO INTERNATIONAL COURTS
TPA forces Congress to give up its ability to amend or change any trade agreement related laws and regulations the President and the World Trade Organization decide to impose on the United States. Thus, Congress is transferring its law making powers to world courts.
A. ‘IMPLEMENTING LEGISLATION’
TPA does not only apply to the trade agreements, but also to whatever legislation the President and the World Trade Organization Tribunals feel need to be implemented in order to comply with trade agreement terms. In other words, the President and the WTO get to decide which US laws and regulations need to be changed to ‘harmonize’, (i.e. change), our laws to match international law. Under TPA, Congress cannot amend or change a single word in this President’s implementing legislation. Furthermore, if Congress votes down the President’s ‘implementing legislation’ after the trade deal is finalized; the WTO tribunals will fine the United States and apply trade sanctions until all applicable US laws have been changed to match the international laws.
B. REGULATION HARMONIZATION
In addition to ‘Implementing Legislation’, the President also gets to enact new regulations through Executive Branch Agencies, in order to ‘harmonize’ US regulations with International regulations. Congress does not get to vote on Executive Branch Regulations; the President simply declares them and enforces them. As we have seen through court rulings, Executive Branch regulations are de facto laws that must be followed by not only the Federal government, but also every state and every American. As with the ‘implementing legislation’ above, should Congress try to remove the regulations, the World Trade Organization tribunals will fine the United States and apply sanctions against the US for failure to comply with the trade agreement.
PROBLEM 5: POTUS IS ALREADY REFUSING CONGRESSIONAL TPA ‘OBJECTIVES’
As Fast Track legislation was being finalized, certain Congressmen attempted to give TPA teeth. Specific language was offered that could have protected American interests and sovereignty, yet the Administration threatened to veto any bill that held them accountable; clearly demonstrating the Administration’s willingness to disobey Congress. Let’s take a look at the Amendments offered, but refused by the Administration and Congressional Leadership:
A. Docking Agreement – that Congress must approve any new trade partner countries added to the agreement. DENIED.
B. Secrecy – to force the administration to make the full text of the Trans Pacific Trade Agreement immediately available to the public. DENIED.
C. Immigration – to ensure that no trade agreement changes US Immigration Laws or practices. DENIED.
D. ISDS World Court Tribunals – to ensure that World Courts do not over rule US law. DENIED.
E. Currency Manipulation – to ensure the 8 TPP trading partners known as ‘worst offender’ currency manipulators are prevented from future currency manipulation. DENIED.
E. Human Rights/Slavery/Sex Trafficking – to ensure the US does not give favored trade status to countries the State Department has identified as human rights/slavery/sex trafficking nations. DENIED.
PROBLEM 6: LIVING AGREEMENT
The Obama Administration freely admits that the TPP is a ‘living agreement’ modeled after WTO standards. Living Agreement means the agreement can be changed even after it is signed and Congress will have absolutely no say in the changes. You see, by passing the trade agreement, Congress agrees in advance to waive their right to object to any future changes to the trade agreements, thereby committing the United States to international laws that haven’t even been written yet!
Two things can change an agreement after it is signed:
1. WTO Tribunal Rulings: As has already happened under previous trade agreements, the WTO Tribunals can and do add provisions to trade agreements after signing, and all signing countries must obey those new provisions.
2. Partner Agreement: Under WTO rules, if 2/3 of the trade partners agree to add a new partner, (Iran perhaps?), or to add new provisions to the agreement, then all partners must obey. It does not matter if Congress objects or is not a part of the 2/3 who wanted the change, by agreeing to the ‘living agreement’ aspect in advance, Congress has already agreed to obey future international changes, no matter what those changes might be.
PROBLEM 7: THE WORST NEGOTIATOR IN HISTORY
TPA’s immediate intent is to speed passage of the Trans Pacific Trade Agreement, (TPP), and the Trans-Atlantic Trade Agreement, (TTIP). These two trade agreements are the largest trade agreements in history, accounting for 60% of global GDP. These two trade agreements essentially carve the globe in half, and create blanket trade agreements that cover each hemisphere. Agreements of such magnitude must be well negotiated; yet, President Obama’s complete and utter lack of negotiating skills has been proven time and again. Consider:
President Barack Obama freed 5 violent jihadis for 1 Army deserter.
President Barack Obama negotiated a trade deal with South Korea which he claimed they would never violate, yet they have repeatedly broken the deal.
President Barack Obama negotiated the North Korea nuclear deal, which he swore would prevent North Korea from obtaining nuclear weapons. North Korea now owns ICB nukes.
President Barack Obama negotiated a nuclear deal with Iran, which resulted in Iran seizing US ships and still retaining nuclear capability.
Now it’s time to ask ourselves – can we really trust President Obama to negotiate the largest trade agreements in history?