When are Keith Ellison and Michele Bachmann on the same side of an issue? When it comes to standing up for separation of powers and Congress’ ability to oversee trade policy that has a massive effect on us as constituents.
In separate letters released Nov. 13, Rep. Bachmann and all five Democratic house members from Minnesota expressed their opposition to a legislative maneuver known recently as Trade Promotion Authority, but more commonly referred to as “fast track.” Fast track means that instead of going through the normal legislative process, new trade agreements would not be amendable, debate would be limited and the U.S. House would be forced to vote on them within 60 days of submission – and the White House gets to write all of the implementing legislation. Although a fast-track bill would also include Congress’ priorities for trade agreements, the administration would not have to abide by them.
Fast track essentially turns the government into a dictatorship when it comes to trade policy. And it’s no surprise the administration wants to ram this through Congress without debate, as drafts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership – the massive free-trade agreement currently being negotiated in secret – leaked into the public view are not pretty.
After NAFTA, good union jobs went to Mexico, where the average factory wage is now about $2.50 an hour. Now even those Mexican jobs are going to get shipped to Vietnam, where the average factory wage is $2.50 a day! The U.S. is expected to lose over half a million jobs in the textile sector alone. And it’s not just jobs. TPP gives more protections and deregulations to big corporations, everything from banking laws to limiting our access to medicine and allowing corporations to monitor our internet use, a huge violation of privacy. And say goodbye to knowing where your food comes from. Under TPP it would be illegal to know whether your shrimp comes from Louisiana or the South China Sea.
Minnesota has always been on the losing end of these deals. The Economic Policy Institute estimates the state has lost nearly 14,000 jobs due to NAFTA and over 72,000 jobs to China since it was granted permanent normal trade relations in 2000.
The good news is no fast-track bill has been introduced yet despite the Obama administration’s requests. We had expected to see a bill introduced over the summer, but the building opposition and Congressional gridlock pushed back the corporate trade agenda. If we can keep fast track in the public light and make it a campaign issue, we’ll be in a strong position, as I can guarantee no politician is going to campaign on giving up their constitutional responsibility in order to outsource jobs! So we need to thank our representatives and pressure our Senators until Minnesota becomes the strongest bastion for fair trade in the country. The Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition is leading the way on this, when we’re united and work together, we win!
– Josh Wise is executvie director of the Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition, with more than 40 member organizations statewide.