Fast Track Trade Authority thwarted

The General Board of Church & Society of The United Methodist Church is pleased that the U.S. House of Representatives failed Friday to pass legislation to enable Fast Track Trade Authority (FTA) for the administration on trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

A bipartisan majority rejected part of the trade legislation.

A bipartisan majority rejected part of the trade legislation, the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) that would provide aid to workers who lose their jobs as a result of U.S. trade deals with other countries. Ironically, Democrats said the TAA was woefully underfunded, and Republicans resisted the concept itself.

Regardless of the reason, the TAA went down 302-126, although the Fast Track Trade Authority itself was approved. The legislation required approval of both TAA and FTA to pass into law.

We give our thanks to the faithful United Methodists who made calls to their members of Congress to oppose this legislation.

United Methodist Social Principles

The United Methodist Social Principles affirm the importance of international trade and investment in an interdependent world (The Economic Community, ¶163K). We believe broad-based citizen advocacy and participation in trade negotiations must be ensured through democratic mechanisms of consultation and participation.

And therein lies the rub in the current scenario.

President Obama, House Republican leaders and a vast corporate lobbying effort had vigorously pursued Fast Track Trade Authority.

President Obama, House Republican leaders and a vast corporate lobbying effort had vigorously pursued Fast Track Trade Authority. No doubt, the president is working with House leaders to bring it up again within a month. Any attempt to pass the Fast Track Authority without the Trade Adjustment Assistance legislation will meet resistance from the president who considers it an important part of his trade agenda.

The Fast Track Authority provisions allow Congress only to vote it up or down. Negotiations surrounding the Trans-Pacific Partnership have been highly secretive, although they affect millions of people. We have the right to know what is being proposed for a 12-nation pact that will set the rules governing an estimated 40% of the world’s economy.

These rules will not only dictate tariff levels, but also energy and environmental policies, medicine patents, financial regulations, buy-local preferences, food safety, Internet protocols, consumer labeling and so on. Transparency is non-existent, however.

United Methodist resolution

We are proud that in some small way we enabled United Methodists to “become advocates of trade policies that alleviate economic disparities between rich and poor countries while protecting labor and human rights; environmental, health and safety standards; and respecting the need for agricultural and food security” (Resolution #4051, United Methodist Book of Resolutions).

While we can savor this victory, we must bear in mind that the Senate in a bipartisan vote has already approved the whole package of trade measures.

We must remain vigilant, and work with other organizations to respond vigorously to the next attempt to pass this trade legislation.

Editor's note: Mark Harrison directs the Peace with Justice program at the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society.

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