Thanks to our months of mobilizing – from the grassroots to those inside the Beltway – the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act, also known as Fast Track, has not had the easy trip through Congress that President Obama hoped. Introduced on January 9th by Ways & Means Committee Chair David Camp (R-MI) and outgoing Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-MT), the Fast Track legislation would allow the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other pacts to be ‘fast tracked’ through Congress and not be tested by our representatives in government by ordinary review, amendment and debate procedures.
Shortly after President Obama’s State of the Union speech where he talked boldly about bolstering free trade, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, came out against Fast Track, and added, “Everyone would be well advised just to not push this right now.” And then less than two weeks later, House Majority Leader, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi followed suit stating, “No on Fast Track — Camp-Baucus — out of the question”. Pelosi’s announcement came after being contacted by thousands of constituents and fair traders during a week of action, where her phone lines were flooded and Bay Area activists rallied in front of her office.
So with Fast Track in the slow lane, and possibly taken out of play until after the November elections, prospects for the TPP look bleak despite being high of President Obama’s list of priorities.
Firstly, leaked draft Environment and Intellectual Property Rights chapters (thanks Wikileaks) have proven our worst fears – not only do they build on texts from previous free trade agreements, they are worse. Of the Environment chapter, the Sierra Club says, “This draft chapter falls flat on every single one of our issues – oceans, fish, wildlife, and forest protections – and in fact, rolls back on the progress made in past free trade pacts” and of the Intellectual Property Rights chapter, the Electronic Frontier Foundation says, “For those of us who care about free speech and a balanced intellectual property system that encourages innovation, creativity, and access to knowledge, it’s not a pretty picture”.
Secondly, despite numerous rounds of Ministerials around the globe, negotiators can’t seem to ink the Agreement. Currently, the U.S is blaming Japan. Before it was blaming Vietnam. This does not bode well for Obama’s planned visit to Asia in April – a trip once touted as a victory lap for the TPP.
Thirdly, headlines like this – Obama administration struggles to convince Democrats that its Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal isn’t terrible – are now daily postings.
But, of course, we want Fast Track in the ditch, not just in the slow lane.
If you want to know more on why to oppose Fast Track, read this blog.
Make sure your Congressperson is on the right side, send them an email raising your opposition for Fast Track.
Watch this video.