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Stop Fast-Track Authority in the ‘Lame Duck’ Session

Nov. 18, 2014
The rumors in Washington, D. C. are that granting President Obama fast-track authority under trade promotion authority will be brought up in the "Lame Duck" session, perhaps as an addition to one of the bills extending certain tax credits, called "Tax Extender bills." Simply put, granting fast-track authority to the president means:

The rumors in Washington, D.C. are that granting President Obama fast-track authority under trade promotion authority will be brought up in the "Lame Duck" session, perhaps as an addition to one of the bills extending certain tax credits, called "Tax Extender bills."

Simply put, granting fast-track authority to the president means:

  • Choice of countries is delegated to the president
  • Executive branch negotiates and signs a trade agreement before vote by Congress
  • Allows only 20 hours of debate by Congress
  • Forbids any amendments to the trade agreement
  • Requires only a simple majority vote in each house violating U.S. Constitution Article 1 Treaty clause giving the Senate authority to approve a treaty by a supermajority.
  • Gives constitutional power over trade to president and takes it away from Congress
  • Usurps Constitution and is dangerous to give this much power to the Executive Branch

There are two trade agreements that have been in secret negotiations since 2010. The first is the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Eleven nations have participated in the negotiations: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. Japan announced its intention to join the agreement last spring. However, the TPP is intended as a “docking agreement,” so other Pacific Rim countries could join over time, and the Philippines, Thailand, Colombia, and others have expressed interest. Even China could join the TPP at a later date without suffering any disadvantage though this would negate the original reason for the TPP as a counter to China’s hegemony in the Pacific.

The TPP is much more than a trade agreement; it is a trade and global governance agreement because only five of the 30 chapters relate to tariffs and quotas. The other 25 chapters cover such topics as: domestic regulation: food & product safety, financial regulation, investor states' rights, immigration, intellectual property, federal, state and local laws on taxes, patents, copyrights, trademarks, immigration, environment, labor standards, among many other issues. Clauses in these chapters may even overrule prior acts of Congress without new legislation being introduced, passed in Congress and signed by the president.

Most dangerous of all, international tribunals, not U.S. courts, would decide on lawsuits between companies in member countries and the U.S. In a commentary article on October 15, 2013, Lt. Col (Retired) Allen West wrote, “TPP would subject the U.S. to the jurisdiction of foreign tribunals under the authority of the World Bank and United Nations. These unelected, unaccountable panels would constitute a judicial authority higher than the U.S. Supreme Court. They would have the power to overrule federal court rulings and order payment of U.S. tax dollars to enforce the special privileges granted to foreign firms that would be exempt from EPA and other regulations that strangle American firms.”

In addition, the U.S. would have to agree to waive Buy America procurement policies for all companies operating in TPP countries. What this means is that the TPP’s procurement chapter would require that all companies operating in any country signing the agreement be provided access equal to domestic firms to U.S. government procurement contracts over a certain dollar threshold. To meet this requirement, the U.S. would have to agree to waive Buy America procurement policies for all companies operating in TPP countries. There are many companies that survived the recession and continue in business today because of the Buy American provisions for defense and military procurement. The TPP could be the death knoll for these companies!

The other trade agreement is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) also known as the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA), which is a proposed free trade agreement between the European Union and the United States. The Obama administration considers the TTIP a companion agreement to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and it is similar in scope and nature to the TPP, incorporating all the same global governance chapters.

In the last 20 years, the U.S. has made trade agreements with 20 nations, of which the major trade agreements are:

  • NAFTA
  • Created the World Trade Organization & let China join
  • Panama Free Trade Agreement
  • Central America Free Trade Agreement
  • Colombia Free Trade Agreement
  • Korea Free Trade Agreement

What have been the consequences of these past trade agreements? One consequence is an increasing trade deficit. In 2013, our total trade deficit in goods was $688.4 billion, of which China represented 46% at $318.4 billion. Our top six trading partners of Canada, China, Mexico, Japan, Germany, and South Korea represent 64% of our total trade deficit.

Another serious consequence is the loss of American jobs. From 2000 to 2010, the U. S. lost 5.8 million manufacturing jobs and 57,000 manufacturing firms closed. Where did most of the jobs go? U.S. Department of Commerce data shows that “U.S. multinational corporations… cut their work forces in the U.S. by 2.9 million during the 2000s while increasing employment overseas by 2.4 million.” Millions of people have lost their jobs because corporate CEOs concluded, “It’s cheaper to manufacture where they pay 50 cents/hour and let us pollute all we want.”

As a result, the real unemployment rate is 16.1%, and there are still nearly 2 million less jobs than there were at the start of the Great Recession in December 2007!

The TPP and TTIP/TAFTA are bad for American companies, American workers and American consumers. What good does it do to have cheaper consumer goods if you don't have a job?

I urge everyone to contact your congressman to ask them to vote no on granting fast-track authority!

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