WASHINGTON, DC- Today, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) introduced the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014, legislation that would grant "fast track" authority for trade deals, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Fast track was created under President Nixon and first passed in 1974, at a time when trade pacts focused on traditional trade issues such as cutting tariffs and lifting quotas. If this legislation were approved by Congress, the President would be able to send already signed trade pacts to Congress for straight up-or-down vote -- with no room for amendments and limited floor debate.
This legislation is likely to face stiff opposition from Congress. In November, 151 House Democrats sent a letterto President Obama calling for the creation of a new mechanism for trade agreement negotiations and approval that would give Congress "exclusive constitutional authority to set the terms of trade." Another letter signed by 23 House Republicans opposing fast track was also sent to the President on November 12, 2013.
In response, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune issued the following statement:
"The Sierra Club opposes fast track, an outdated and inappropriate mechanism for trade pacts as expansive as the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and the proposed U.S.-EU trade deal. This legislation strips Congress of its defining democratic characteristic -- its check-and-balance structure. If Congress is not able to fully debate and, if necessary, amend the language of these all-encompassing trade pacts, the environment, our climate, and our families could suffer as a result.
"Trade pacts must include binding protections to consumers, workers' rights, the environment, the climate, and much more, and Congress must be able to make sure these boxes are checked.
"It's critical that Congress has the ability to oversee trade negotiations and make sure trade protects our environment, workers, and communities here in the U.S. and abroad. The public and Members of Congress have already largely been excluded from the process of creating the Trans-Pacific Partnership -- why limit our democratic rights even further?
"We urge Members of Congress to oppose fast track and retain their rights to ensure that the U.S. leads in responsible trade. We need a real debate on the cost of trade on our economy and environment -- not a process to haphazardly push pacts over the finish line."
For more information on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, see this Sierra Club report: http://sc.org/RawDealReport
For more information on the proposed U.S.-EU trade pact, see this Sierra Club report: http://sc.org/TTIP-report
About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America's largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.1 million members and supporters nationwide. In addition to creating opportunities for people of all ages, levels and locations to have meaningful outdoor experiences, the Sierra Club works to safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and litigation. http://www.sierraclub.org.