Fed: Don’t let fast track renew itself automatically

WASHINGTON—The AFL-CIO wants Congress to block the automatic renewal of “fast track” trade promotion authority, now scheduled for July 1.

 

In a June 7 letter to lawmakers, federation Legislative Director Bill Samuel said fast track lets the president negotiate trade pacts that harm workers without any input from Congress or workers. He called for fast track to lapse and new pacts negotiated to help, not hurt, workers. “The point is that all should benefit from trade, not just a few,” Samuel says.

 

Under current law, fast track automatically runs for three more years, through to July 1, 2021, “unless Congress moves to cancel it,” Samuel said in a brief telephone call. That’s what the fed wants lawmakers to do.

 

“Current law fails to hold the executive branch accountable for achieving negotiating objectives,” including workers’ rights, “addressing the job-killing trade imbalance, or ensuring trade deals do not continue the current race to the bottom” in worker rights, environmental protections, affordable medicines, “food safety rules and other vital protections for working families,” Samuel’s letter says.

 

“In short, it does not require reform of trade policies that contributed to stagnating wages, increasing inequality and the closure of more than 60,000 factories since 2000.”

 

Rather than letting current fast track continue through 2021, lawmakers must enact modern trade authority that emphasizes enforceable and strong worker rights, Samuel reiterated. Modern trade authority should also feature open negotiations, let lawmakers choose trade negotiating partners in advance and include workers, lawmakers and the public.

 

“Renewing the current inadequate trade negotiating authority would ensure this bad law remains in place until 2021. The shortcomings of fast track are all the more salient given the current effort to renegotiate the failed North American Free Trade Agreement as well as the recent talk of reviving the misguided and discredited Trans-Pacific Partnership,” Samuel adds.

 

The TPP is “designed to promote corporate profits at the expense of hardworking fami-lies. It would be a shame if the inadequate negotiating objectives in current law were used as an excuse to maintain trade rules that favor corporate profits over good jobs and high wages.”

 

“Finally, it is important to emphasize the existing fast track’s labor standards have proved themselves inadequate,” he noted.

 

Whether lawmakers will halt and reform fast track by the end of June is unlikely. The only trade proposal gaining traction right now is by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., to curb presidential use of Section 232 of U.S. trade law. That lets the president unilaterally impose import tariffs or quotas for “national security” reasons.

 

Trump used Section 232 to impose 25 percent tariffs on imported steel and 10 percent on imported aluminum – moves the Steelworkers lauded.

Source: PAI