White House Selling "Free Trade" and "Fast Track," But Who's Buying?

Though progressives both inside Congress and out have come out strongly against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and a bill introduced last week that would give President Obama “fast track” authority to sign the “free trade” pact without legislative wrangling, the White House appears to be redoubling its efforts to get what it wants.

As The Hill reports Tuesday:

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The “fast track” bill in question was introduced in the Democrat-controlled Senate last week by the reliable friend of big business Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and co-sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). The companion bill in the House was introduced by Republican Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, though it has so far received no Democratic co-sponsors with only his fellow GOP caucus members lining up in support.

Earlier this month, more than 150 Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to Obama describing their concerns about the TPP and the fast track legislation under consideration.

“For too long, bad trade deals have allowed corporations to ship good American jobs overseas, and wages, benefits, workplace protections and quality of life have all declined as a result,” said Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and George Miller (D-CA) in a joint statement alongside the letter. “That is why there is strong bipartisan opposition to enabling the Executive Branch to ram through far-reaching, secretly negotiated trade deals like the TPP that extend well beyond traditional trade matters. At the core of the Baucus-Camp bill is the same Fast Track mechanism that failed us from 2002-2007.

“Our constituents did not send us to Washington to ship their jobs overseas, and Congress will not be a rubber stamp for another flawed trade deal that will hang the middle class out to dry. Instead of pursuing the same failed trade policies we should support American workers by making the necessary investments to compete in today’s global economy.”

Outside opponents of the deal itself—unwavering in their critique—have used the fight over “fast track” to exhibit what they see as the undemocratic nature of globalized trade deals like the TPP. And as the implementation of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) recently celebrated its twentieth anniversary, many of those opponents argue that NAFTA’s terrible economic, social, and environmental legacies should be all the warning needed to put the brakes on such deals.

“Like NAFTA, the TPP will handcuff our ability to set regulations in key areas like finance, industry, the environment, public procurement and fostering programs to create jobs at home,” argued Manuel Pérez Rocha, an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, in a recent essay. “Free trade offers corporate subsidies for the rich and cut-throat competition for everyone else. So it should come as no surprise that communities across the continent and the Western Hemisphere are mobilizing in what can be expected as the battle against the TPP.”