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Fast Track/Presidential Trade Promotion Authority: Is This Democracy? No. 379

Adopted 2007 

        “Fast Track” or “Presidential Trade Promotion Authority” is a mechanism by which Congress gives the executive branch the right to dictate trade policy and formulate trade agreements. Under FastTrack, the president and the USTR (United States Trade Representative) have the power to select our trading partner nation(s), negotiate a trade agreement, then submit the agreement to Congress for a simple 'up' or 'down' vote. Discussion time is limited to 60 days. No amendments are permitted. Therefore, under Fast Track, our representatives in Congress have virtually no say concerning trade policy and the contents or language of trade agreements.

        Fast Track was introduced by the Nixon administration in 1974. President Clinton used Fast Track to speed NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) through Congress in 1993. The process was re-christened “Presidential Trade Promotion Authority” by the George W. Bush administration. Through a process of misrepresentation of consequences and unconscionable railroading through Congress, the Bush Administration succeeded in having Fast Track renewed in 2001. George W. Bush used it to pass CAFTA (Central America Free Trade Agreement) in 2005, as well as several other less contentious deals.

          Global trade agreements do not simply regulate the exchange of goods; they increasingly facilitate international corporate investment. Agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA have functioned to increase the power and profits of corporations, to the detriment of workers’ livelihood and environmental sustainability. Trade agreements negotiated during the past two decades include control over services (such as provision of natural resources), over laws passed at the local and state levels (such as living wage laws, or environmental protections) and over intellectual property rights (including distribution of generic pharmaceuticals). Simply stated: trade agreements reach into all aspects of our lives and those of the populations of our trading partner nations. 

       Trade agreements can be written and negotiated to raise living standards for workers and to enforce environmental protections vital to survival of the planet. The evidence is clear that, acting on its own, the administration will continue to craft trade agreements that benefit corporate investors instead.

 (see ADA Resolutions #350, #371 & #378 for further details on global trade)

         Fast Track will expire at the end of June, 2007, and Congress again will be asked to authorize the Bush administration to choose our trading partners, negotiate the agreements without transparency, then present them to Congress for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote. It is the position of ADA that it is inappropriate for any president to request or be granted Fast Track authority. The process constitutes an abrogation of power and responsibility by the people’s elected representatives in Congress. Democracy requires checks and balances by the branches of government. Fast Track is not democracy.


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No. 379 Energy, Environment and Economic Policy Commission