(WASHINGTON) – The International Brotherhood of Teamsters is raising concerns about legislation introduced this afternoon that would allow trade deals to move through Congress with limited debate and no chance of being amended.
The bill, known as the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014, is sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and ranking committee member Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), as well as House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.).
If the USTR releases the text, Congress will soon have an opportunity to at least read the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-nation Pacific Rim trade proposal that would lead to thousands of U.S. jobs being shipped overseas. But the measure offered by Chairmen Baucus and Camp as well as Sen. Hatch would deny lawmakers the ability to fully discuss the TPP and other trade deals and would only allow a straight up-or-down vote on such agreements.
Given that such proposals are complex and address important issues as jobs, food safety, health care, the environment and even Internet freedom, a full-throated debate is warranted. However, that will not occur if fast-track trade authority is ultimately approved. Lawmakers should learn a lesson from when Congress approved NAFTA 20 years ago using fast track and not make the same mistake now.
“America lost nearly 700,000 jobs because of NAFTA. Jobs have been shipped across borders, gutting the middle class. We can’t make that same mistake again,” Teamsters President James P. Hoffa said. “Corporate America loves to tout the growth in trade due to NAFTA. But those dollars have largely gone into the pockets of top executives.”
A bipartisan collection of lawmakers have come out against fast track, saying the lack of transparency in considering TPP and other trade deals will hurt not only workers but families as well who won’t understand what is included in such pacts and could have their health put at risk.