Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Why congress should not grant fast track authority

No, I'm not going to give my perspective. Rather, keeping in line with many of the other blog posts, I will rehash arguments from 1991 or 1992, from the heat of the NAFTA debate. Once again, I draw on words uttered by Craig Merrilees, from a testimony to the House Agriculture Committee (chaired by Rep. Kiki de la Garza, D-Texas). It was a fiery testimony, as evidenced by the very testy exchange with Rep. Thomas Coleman (R-Missouri). Mr. Merrilees outlined the following 6 points as to why Fast-track authority should not be granted to the executive branch:
  1. It is anti-democratic. Congress should not sit on the sidelines while the executive branch makes the deals.
  2. Scope for secret back-room deals. Lobbyists can influence policy more than what they can do in a more transparent process.
  3. Fast-track is not necessary to get a complex agreement. The doom and gloom scenario painted by the administration, if Fast-track is not passed, is scare tactics.
  4. Bush (Papa) and Salinas (then President of Mexico) make argument that things will fail without fast-track. Salinas needs the US market, with or without fast-track. You can replace Salinas with any other country engaged in TPP now, though I am not so sure that they need the US now like Mexico needed the US in the 90s.
  5. Fast-track gutted GATT discussions because of extremist positions of Carla Hills and government on agriculture, maybe because of the influence of agribusiness.
  6. Fast-track makes it impossible for Congress to vote up or down provisions of the trade deal that they find objectionable. The yes or no vote psychologically tilts everyone towards voting yes.
Finally, Mr. Merrilees makes a good and sarcastic comment: Finally, Richard Nixon argued for fast-track because he believed that we needed a stronger executive branch. If that is what you believe, you have a different version of history than I have. Touche!

I think many of the reasons hold true now too. Giving congress the responsibility of coming up with a trade deal on their own seems crazy, especially given the levels of cooperation we've seen over the last few years. I think, though, that on the issue of trade, there might be much better cooperation than on more politically charged issues. 

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