Congressman Mark Pocan

Representing the 2nd District of Wisconsin
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Pocan to President Obama: We Should Not “Fast Track” Trans-Pacific Partnership through Congress

Nov 13, 2013
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—As the United States continues to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive new trade deal with 11 other countries that would affect nearly every sector of the American economy, Congress and the American people continue to be left in the dark on the contents of the deal. In response, today U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) joined more than 150 of his Democratic colleagues in a letter to President Obama opposing the use of the “Fast Track” process or any mechanism that would rush the deal through Congress without proper oversight and input.  The letter is led by Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and George Miller (D-CA).

“Wisconsinites have seen these type of “free trade” deals rushed through Washington before, and we saw the results firsthand: closed factories, depleted industries and lost jobs,” Pocan said. “We cannot make the same mistakes of the past. If the administration wants to get the approval of Congress for this new agreement, we must take the time to conduct the careful and thorough oversight this measure requires.”

The Constitution provides Congress with the authority to oversee all international trade agreements, but previously Congress has instituted a procedure called “fast track negotiating authority” or “trade promotion authority” which speeds up the trade agreement approval process by delegating wide swaths of Congress’s power to oversee international trade to the executive branch. If implemented, Congress would vote to accept or reject a trade agreement, but would be unable to amend the text. 

Members of the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committees are looking to develop legislation that would reinstate the outdated Fast Track procedures that expired in 2007.

“Twentieth Century ‘Fast Track’ is simply not appropriate for 21st Century agreements and must be replaced,” the members wrote. “A new trade agreement negotiation and approval process that restores a robust role for Congress is essential to achieving U.S. trade agreements that can secure prosperity for the greatest number of Americans, while preserving the vital tenets of American democracy in the era of globalization.”

As a small business owner who has seen the effects of massive trade deals and their impact on American products, Pocan has been a leader in fighting for fair trade deals that protect American jobs and American industries. This summer, Pocan led a letter with 35 other freshman lawmakers calling for increased transparency from the administration on TPP and urging Congress not to give up its constitutional authority to oversee foreign trade agreements.

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear President Obama:

 

We write to express our serious concern with the ongoing negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement (FTA), a potential agreement of tremendous consequence for our country. Specifically, we remain deeply troubled by the continued lack of adequate congressional consultation in many areas of the proposed pact that deeply implicates Congress’ constitutional and domestic policy authorities.

 

For some time, members of Congress have urged your administration to engage in broader and deeper consultations with members of the full range of committees of Congress whose jurisdiction touches on the numerous issues being negotiated.  Many have raised concerns relating to reports about the agreement’s proposed content.  While your Administration’s goal was to sign a TPP FTA at the October 2013 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, we believe that to date the process has failed to provide adequate consultation with Congress.

 

Such opportunity for input from Congress is critical as the TPP FTA will include binding obligations that touch upon a wide swath of policy matters under the authority of Congress. 

Beyond traditional tariff issues, these include policies related to labor, patent and copyright, land use, food, agriculture and product standards, natural resources, the environment, professional licensing, competition, state-owned enterprises and government procurement policies, as well as financial, healthcare, energy, e-commerce, telecommunications and other service sector regulations.  

 

In light of the broad scope of today’s trade agreements, it is even more vital that Congress have a fulsome role in shaping these pacts’ terms. Given our concerns, we will oppose  “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority or any other mechanism delegating Congress’ constitutional authority over trade policy that continues to exclude us from having a meaningful role in the formative stages of trade agreements and throughout negotiating and approval processes.

 

Congress, not the Executive Branch, must determine when an agreement meets the objectives Congress sets in the exercise of its Article I-8 exclusive constitutional authority to set the terms of trade.   For instance, an agreement that does not specifically meet congressional negotiating objectives must not receive preferential consideration in Congress.  A new trade agreement negotiation and approval process that restores a robust role for Congress is essential to achieving U.S. trade agreements that can secure prosperity for the greatest number of Americans, while preserving the vital tenets of American democracy in the era of globalization.

 

Twentieth Century “Fast Track” is simply not appropriate for 21st Century agreements and must be replaced.  The United States cannot afford another trade agreement that replicates the mistakes of the past. We can and must do better.

 

We are deeply committed to transforming U.S. trade policy into a tool for creating and retaining family-wage jobs in America, safeguarding the environment, maintaining consumer protection and improving the quality of life throughout the country.   We look forward to working with you to ensure that Congress and the Executive Branch are working together to meet that critical goal.