Time sensitive episode! Congress is rushing to pass a bill that would grant the President Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which hands Congress’ power to negotiate international treaties to the Executive Branch. In this episode, we look at the details of the Trade Promotion Authority bill. Is giving the Executive Branch this power a good idea?
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Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) or Fast Track
The following links are to the text of H.R. 1890, as introduced in the the House Ways and Means Committee. The Senate, as of April 26, has not sent the text of their version to the Government Publishing Office to be released to the public.
- Elimination of trade laws that keep multinational corporations out of foreign countries
- Expand the Investor State Dispute System
- Allow multinational corporations access to the world’s resources
- Get other countries to change their laws
- Eliminate taxes that companies have to pay to sell their products in other countries (tariffs)
- Remove regulations that prevent businesses from operating in other countries
- Prevent countries from refusing foreign food for safety reasons unless an approved international scientific organization says the concerns are legit.
- Force countries to eliminate subsidies for their own industries
- Eliminate government owned industries
- Prohibit labeling requirements for food that “affect” biotechnology (for example, genetically modified foods) and making labeling requirements eligible for lawsuits in the Investor State Dispute System
- Prohibits restrictions “not based on scientific principles”
- Eliminate exceptions for when a foreign corporation is treated the same as a domestic corporation
- Allow money to be transferred into and out of the country
- Eliminate performance requirements for opening and operating a business in a foreign country
- Create laws that force governments to pay companies for law that reclaim their land from corporations
- Create an appeal process for the Investor State Dispute System
- Ensure that Investor State Dispute System rulings are made public, that hearings are open to the public, and that businesses, unions, and NGO’s have a way to make their opinions heard in Investor State Dispute System cases, even if those businesses, unions and NGOs are not a part of the case.
- Make sure that companies have the legal and technological means to prevent unauthorized use of their copyrighted material over the Internet
- Prohibit laws that require local storage or processing of digital data
- Prohibit taxes on electronic transfers
- Require regulations be “based on sound science, cost benefit analysis, or risk assessment”
- Have countries match their laws
- Eliminate price controls
- Eliminate and prevent laws that require multinational corporations to operate facilities or keep assets in a country where they want to do business
Labor and Environment
- Require countries to adopt “internationally recognized core labor standards”
- Allows environmental laws to be weakened (see exception)
- Allow countries to enforce labor and environmental laws at their discretion
- “Ensure that labor, environmental, or safety politics and practices of the parties to trade agreements with the United States do not arbitrarily or unjustifiably discriminate against United States exports or serve as disguised barriers to trade.”
- Ensure that labor and environmental laws are subject to the Investor State Dispute System
- Prohibit foreign countries from enforcing labor and environmental law within the United States
- “Encourage and support” anti-corruption and anti-bribery initiatives
Section 3: Trade Promotion Authority for the President
- The President may enter into agreements with foreign countries before July 1, 2018
- That can (and likely will) be extended until July 1, 2021. The President has to request the extension in writing and submit reports to Congress and if Congress does nothing, the extension is automatically approved.
Procedures for the President to Enter International Agreements
- The President must notify Congress of his intention to begin negotiations 90 days before they start
- 30 days before starting negotiations, the President must publish a summary of the negotiation objectives on a publicly available website.
- Before entering into an agreement, the President must “consult” with various Committees and inform them of the “nature of the agreement” and the “general effect of the agreement on existing laws”
- At least 180 days before entering the agreement, the President must submit a report to Congress of the proposals that “may be” in the final agreement.
- At least 90 days before entering the agreement, the President must provide the International Trade Commission – which is not a part of Congress – with details of the agreement as it exists at that time and request an assessment of the agreement.
- At least 90 days before entering the agreement, the President must publish his intention to enter the agreement in the Federal Register.
- 60 days before entering into the agreement, the President must publish the text of the agreement on a publicly available Internet website of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
- 30 days before entering the agreement, the President must give Congress the final text and a plan for implementing and enforcing it.
- Congress will make changes needed to existing U.S. law with an implementing bill
- Any agreement with a foreign government that is not disclosed to Congress before the implementing bill is introduced will have no force or effect.
Congressional Involvement in Negotiations
- The U.S. Trade Representative must meet with any member of Congress who requests a meeting
- The U.S. Trade Representative must provide any member of Congress access to negotiation documents, including classified materials
- The United States Trade Representative must “consult” with various committees at various stages of negotiations.
- The U.S. Trade Representative – not Congress – will write guidelines on “enhanced coordination with Congress” and the USTR can revise the guidelines whenever he wants to.
- The U.S. Trade Representative will have to accredit at least 10 members of Congress to the trade delegation. It’s unclear if they will be able to participate in the actual negotiations.
- If the Senate Finance Committee meets to pass the implementing bill, and it doesn’t pass, a “disapproval resolution” will be passed and sent to the Senate floor.
- Any member of the House or Senate can introduce a “disapproval resolution”
- In the House, the resolution goes to the Committee on Ways and Means AND the Committee on Rules
- If either of these Committees does not pass the resolution, it can not go to the House floor for a vote
- If the Committee on Ways and Means does not pass the resolution in 6 legislative days, the resolution dies.
- In the Senate, the resolution goes to the Committee on Finance.
Information for the Public
- The U.S. Trade Representative will create written guidelines on public access to information regarding agreements, which he can revise at any time.
- Creates a new position in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative – the Chief Transparency Officer – who will “consult” with Congress on transparency policy, “assist’ the public, and “advise” the U.S. Trade Representative
- “No provision of any trade agreement… that is inconsistent with any law of the United States, any State of the United States, or any locality of the United States shall have effect.”
- “Reports…issued by dispute settlement panels… shall have no binding effect on the law of the United States, the Government of the United States, or the law or government of any State or locality of the United States.”
Hearings Discussed in This Episode
“Congress and U.S. Trade Policy”, Senate Finance Committee, April 16, 2015.
“Congress and U.S. Trade Policy”, Senate Finance Committee, April 21, 2015.
Mark-Up Hearing for S. 995 (the Trade Promotion Authority bill), Senate Finance Committee, April 22, 2015.
Mark-Up Hearing for H.R. 1890(the Trade Promotion Authority bill), House Ways and Means Committee, April 22, 2015.
- U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman bundled between $200,000- $500,000 for Barack Obama’s political campaigns, Center for Responsive Politics
- Senator John Thune has taken over $1.6 million from Agribusiness, Center for Responsive Politics
- Is the Bt Protein Safe for Human Consumption?, ucbiotech.org – University of California, February 2012.
- USDA Fact sheet on Country of Origin Labeling (COOL)