Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement Part Two - The TPA

There is much contradictory information circulating about the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill, otherwise known as "Fast Track". One thing I just read was that TPA will permit Obama to negotiate the TPP in secret. In theory, just the reverse is true. Right now, the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement is being negotiated behind closed doors, with only corporations being given "inside" information. Congress is allowed to look at key provisions of it behind closed doors, but the public is in the dark. TPA would allow the negotiations to be opened and citizens would then be able to find out exactly what is happening. In that regard, "Fast Track" is a good idea. In theory.
But only in that regard. The argument in favor of TPA is basically, "We've been doing it for forty years", which we have off-and-on, but just because we have done something for forty years does not make it right and certainly does not mean it is Constitutional. Additionally, "Fast Track" has not always been supported by Republicans, which is yet another juxtaposition surrounding the TPP. In the 1990's, it was allowed to lapse because of GOP opposition, yet suddenly it is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Note that Bill Clinton was president in the '90's; is Barack Obama somehow more trustworthy than he was?
One of the many questions I have about TPA is, if the TPP has been negotiated all of this time without "Fast Track" legislation in place, why is it now imperative that such a bill be passed before Obama finishes his quest for this deal? The answer according to experts is that TPP will not pass without TPA, although technically it can. The problem for proponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is that without "Fast Track" a greater sales job will be necessary in order to secure the required votes for passage, which should raise some eyebrows. If it cannot pass on its merits, why should it be entertained at all? Why the attempt to subvert the Constitution in order to push this bill through?
I have read many criticisms of those who oppose TPA legislation on the grounds that we are being alarmist. Please note the following sentence from the link I have provided below:
 
"...the 1974 trade promotion authority had the effect of delegating power to the executive, minimizing consideration of the public interest, and limiting the legislature's influence over the bill to an up or down vote."
 
So, is it alarmist for not wanting authority transferred from the legislative to the executive branch of the government, or are we simply trying to preserve the Constitution with its checks and balances? Here is another one:
 
"It established a committee system, comprised of 700 industry representatives appointed by the president, to serve as advisors to the negotiations. Throughout trade talks, these individuals had access to confidential negotiating documents. Most members of Congress and the public had no such access,..."
 
That is already happening with TPP, so what good does the TPA do? By all appearances, the only difference with the implementation of a trade promotion authority will be to give Barack Obama more power, something he should not be allowed to have and with which he has proven he cannot be trusted.
 
"Fast track 'has effectively bridged the division of power between the two branches.'"
 
Are you kidding me? Is that what we want? I thought the Founders wanted something called "separation of powers", not a bridge. I fail to understand how anyone in Congress can call himself a "conservative" and be in favor of legislation that clearly changes the Constitution's intended balance of government.
Thankfully, the second vote on TAA/TPP has been temporarily postponed. Hopefully, this will give congressmen time to realize what they are doing. Alarmingly, it turns out the vote last Friday was done without members of Congress understanding that the Trade Assistance Adjustment bill would be paid for via a tax, with congressmen voting for it in violation of their pledge not to do so:
 
 
Such carelessness is unforgiveable. We trust our congressmen to take their jobs seriously and to protect our interests, not to cater to special interests and certainly not to placate the President. Maybe this will serve as a warning for the next round.
In Part Three I will begin delving into the TPP itself.
 
LINK TO THE TRADE AUTHORITY AGREEMENT: