Friday, May 15, 2015

TPA issues

There are two issues about the vote in Congress over Trade Promotion Authority (aka "Fast Track") that don't seem to be getting a lot of attention.

First, the TPA bill being considered will give the President the ability to enter trade deals that Congress is not allowed to amend for the next six years. The current debate over TPA, including the surprise defeat of TPA when virtually the all of the democrats turned against the President, have been presented as a debate over the Trans Pacific Partnership treaty. But that soon-to-be-completed treaty is just the trade deal that happens to be immediately in front of us. The same bill that will require Congress to only give an up or down vote on that deal will limit Congress to an up or down vote for any trade deal that is finalized until 2021.

Maybe you like President Obama and trust that he won't agree to a deal that undermines all of his domestic priorities. But if the current TPA bill becomes law, it will give more leeway for not just this president to negotiate trade agreements, but also the next president, and possibly also the president after that. Which is crazy. We don't even know who these people are yet. Why take away our representatives in Congress's check on that authority?

Second, why does this fast track scheme, where Congress pre-authorizes the President to enter into trade deals by imposing the requirement that when the deal is later submitted to Congress for ratification, Congress can only give an up or down vote, only apply to trade deals? Why doesn't Congress ever pre-authorize the president to enter into any other kind of deal with foreign nations? The differences between how Congress treats a major trade deal and the deal with Iran are pretty stark. Why is that? Are trade deals more important than arms control deals?