Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution states: “The Congress shall have the power…to regulate commerce with foreign nations,” among other duties and responsibilities.
Fast Track/Trade Promotion Authority is being sought by President Obama as a means of passing new trade agreements through Congress on an up or down vote without the knowledge of the voters. Instead, Congress should follow the Constitution and debate trade bills under “regular order,” not unique Fast Track procedures.
Over 80% of modern “trade” agreements are about topics other than tariffs and quotas. Unelected trade officials negotiate changes to other federal, state and local laws. Examples include financial regulation, copyrights, patents, immigration, food safety, energy policy, labor and government procurement.
Fast Track eliminates several floor procedures, including Senate unanimous consent, normal debate, cloture rules, and the Senate filibuster. It requires only a simple majority vote in each chamber for enactment, violating Article II (the treaty clause)of the Constitution….”He (the President) shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.”
Citing the administration’s unconstitutional use of executive authority, Richard Manning, president of Americans for Limited Government, said during a recent press conference that his group will press lawmakers both in Washington and in their home districts to oppose TPA. This effort was launched in earnest at the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition Convention held Jan. 17-19 in Myrtle Beach, S.C., featuring prominent conservative groups including The Eagle Forum, Tea Party Patriots, the Center for Security Policy, TeaParty.net, and Tea Party Nation.
In spite of the failed trade agreements of the past, the President is asking Congress to continue the same formula that has gutted our manufacturing production and the middle class. Here are excerpts from the President’s speech compared to reality:
Obama: “21st century businesses, including small businesses, need to sell more American products overseas.”
Reality: The President continues to mislead by focusing upon exports only, not net trade. Just like any business, America, to grow, needs to sell more than it buys. Businesses grow by net profit. The American economy grows by net exports.
Obama: “Today, our businesses export more than ever, and exporters tend to pay their workers higher wages.”
Reality: Again the President only looks at half the equation, exports…..not the net. Further, businesses that export pay higher wages simply because they tend to be bigger companies than those producing only for the local market. We have lost many domestic industries, which used to export, due to trade agreement offshoring.
Obama: “China wants to write the rules for the world’s fastest-growing region. … Why would we let that happen? We should write those rules.”
Reality: This argument makes no sense. We already wrote the rules for the World Trade Organization. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush used these same arguments in 1999 to support China’s bid to join the WTO. Thereafter, our trade deficit with China skyrocketed. We don’t need more rules or agreements. Rather, we should focus on building our own economic strength and enforcing China’s multiple violations of the rules.
Obama: “That’s why I’m asking both parties to give me trade promotion authority to protect American workers, with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe that aren’t just free, but fair.”
Reality: The Obama Administration trade negotiators are trapped in 1950’s view of tariffs and quotas. They have no plan for a “free and fair” trade agreement. Current foreign trade cheating guts the American economy through currency manipulation, border adjustable consumption taxes, and massive industrial subsidies, including state-owned enterprises. The Obama Administration has refused to address those issues.
Obama: “Look, I’m the first one to admit that past trade deals haven’t always lived up to the hype, and that’s why we’ve gone after countries that break the rules at our expense.”
Reality: True, past trade deals passed due to hype, not good economic strategy. But the administration has not gone after those countries that break the rules. The National Trade Estimate published by the US Trade Representative contains hundreds of pages of rule-breaking. They should be filing a trade case every week, but are not.
Obama: “But ninety-five percent of the world’s customers live outside our borders, and we can’t close ourselves off from those opportunities.”
Reality: This is a false implication that our sales will expand to those low wage markets, and that those sales will exceed lost domestic market share to our relatively rich consumers. The biggest consumer market in the world is right here in the US. We sell access far too cheaply in trade negotiations. The other false implication is that no new trade agreement means we close ourselves off. We already trade with the TPP and TTIP countries and most of them are already in the WTO, which was supposed to be the free trade nirvana of growth and prosperity.
Obama: “More than half of manufacturing executives have said they’re actively looking at bringing jobs back from China. Let’s give them one more reason to get it done.”
Reality: False implications and misleading data. A recent study by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation found that manufacturers are not, on balance, re-shoring. The TPP would actually promote offshoring more U.S. manufacturing to sell back to U.S. consumers.
Summary: The arguments used for Fast Track trade authority, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership are recycled from the hype of past trade deals. That past strategy has failed by causing a massive and unprecedented transfer of industries, jobs and wealth out of the U.S.
America’s leaders should focus on improving the American economy rather than the global economy and lay these issues honestly before the American public for open dialogue and debate. Issues this important require the thoroughly informed consent of the American people. So far, the vast majority of Americans only know we have lost jobs and our wages are frozen. They need to know why.
Frank Shannon served in the U.S. Army, was an engineering/operations manager for AT&T for 27 years, was the owner of a small manufacturing business for 23 years, served as Colorado Chair of the Coalition for a Prosperous America and moved to Mesquite in 2013.