Rep. Pocan, Labor, Environmental Leaders Raise Concerns on Fast Track Trade Deals

Rep. Pocan and members of the BlueGreen Alliance today urged Members of Congress to ask tough questions of U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman about the administration’s support of Trade Promotion Authority, also known as fast track.

January 27, 2015

BlueGreen Leaders Urge Tough Questions of USTR’s Froman on Fast Track Authority

WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 27, 2015) – Rep. Pocan and members of the BlueGreen Alliance today urged Members of Congress to ask tough questions of U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman about the administration’s support of Trade Promotion Authority, also known as fast track. The administration will be pushing Congress to extend Fast Track Authority in an effort to conclude the Trans-Pacific negotiations currently underway in New York City. The Ways and Means Committee will be holding a hearing featuring Froman as a witness later today. Earlier, Froman testified in front of the Senate Finance Committee.

The coalition argued trade negotiations should be transparent to ensure the results are fair and urge Congress to not limit itself to a mere yes or no vote on an agreement that will have wide-reaching consequences for American workers and the environment.

“We’ve seen how bad trade deals hurt U.S. workers and companies as well as the global environment,” said United Steelworkers (USW) International President Leo W. Gerard. “Allowing another trade agreement to be reached absent the scrutiny of Congress and others jeopardizes the inclusion of essential safeguards.”

“Congress must not make the same Fast-Track mistake of the past,” said Rep. Mark Pocan. “We have seen how trade agreements like NAFTA and the Korean Free Trade Agreement, passed using the Fast-Track process, have turned out to be a bad deal for American workers and the environment. I support fair trade but I cannot support greasing the skids for trade agreements that could end up destroying more American jobs and weakening U.S. environmental protections.”

Fast Track is a policy that gives the president the power to negotiate trade agreements—out of public view. Under Fast Track, Congress gives up its traditional power to amend bad trade deals and it cannot send the agreement back to the executive branch with instructions for improvement.

Larry Cohen, President of the Communications Workers of America, said a broad coalition is fighting fast track authority for bad trade deals like the TPP. “There’s a growing movement of workers, people of faith, environmentalists, consumers and community activists that has united to stop this attack on U.S. jobs and communities. Working families want 21st century trade that gives workers, consumers, communities and our environment at least equal rights and protections to those given to big corporations,” said Cohen.

“The quality of the air our families breathe and the water they drink would be put in jeopardy with trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership—and fast-tracking massive deals through Congress without oversight or accountability would be a disaster,” said Debbie Sease, Federal Campaign Director of the Sierra Club, pointing to a letter sent to Congress by more than 40 environmental groups opposing fast track. “With fast track, we would be trading away clean air, clean water, and safe communities.”

“21st-century agreements require openness and transparency. Fast Track would roll back the clock and double down on a process that is already far too secretive,” said Lorretta Johnson, secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of Teachers. “Our elected leaders go to Washington to be our voice. Under Fast Track, Congress will have no say in selecting our trade partners, negotiating trade terms, or debating and amending trade agreements.”

The group urged fast track was originally designed in the 1970s when trade agreements focused on traditional trade issues such as cutting tariffs and lifting quotas. Today’s trade agreements, however, are about much more than tariffs and quotas and have significant implications for our environment, public health, and global climate.

“The BlueGreen Alliance supports fair, transparent trade that doesn’t engage the U.S. in a race to the bottom,” said BlueGreen Alliance Executive Director Kim Glas. “Fast Track is the opposite of that. That’s why it is wrong for our workers, economy and environment.”

Listen to the audio from the press call below.