Reports emerging on the Trade Promotion Authority the President has requested from Congress on the ‘fast track’ are sketchy but they all agree on one thing: secrecy. Secrecy in trade deals can’t be good. If it was good, the President would be shouting about it from the mountain tops, or slow-jamming it with Jimmy Fallon or preaching about in community college campuses around the nation. But it’s secret: 800 or more pages in a locked room with no windows and only one way in. Only Members of the House and Senators on relevant committees are even allowed in the room to read, but not take notes. Neither recording, nor imaging, nor communication devices of any kind are allowed in this room, and no one who reads the documents is allowed to discuss them with fellow Members or Senators or constituents.
This sounds like the kind of secrecy surrounding Classified Warplans: locked room, eyes only, no discussion outside the locked room and any notes are classified. But with warplans at least the planners and the units involved can discuss them in a secured room from time to time. The reported secrecy surrounding this trade package eclipses even this secrecy because the Members and Senators who will vote on it cannot discuss it amongst themselves. Secrecy is entirely appropriate for matters of national security: warplans, new weapons programs, nuclear weapons, etc. We don’t want the enemies of freedom and of the USA to find out about our national security secrets and develop countermeasures. It is entirely inappropriate for trade deals. Trade deals should benefit all parties concerned and should be good enough to be bragged about. Or they should be in a constitutional republic where the duly elected representatives of the people and of the sovereign States make the laws and ratify the treaties.
Some reports suggest that behind TPA is set of deals the Administration has been working in secret for as long as the last six years. Now, the President has come to Congress to ask for an up or down vote giving him wide latitude to make trade deals without further Congressional approval. House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the rest of the Establishment Republicans, some in pocket of multi-national corporations and the national chamber of commerce, are salivating over this authority and what an Establishment Republican President could do with it in the future. Democrats, led by Nancy Pelosi, and many needing union contributions to their 2016 campaigns, have largely decried the TPA at the behest of their union donors. It’s strange to see the Establishment Republicans and Democrats opposing each other, but there it is.
Other reports suggest that the trade pacts include a Pacific deal with 21 nations that includes improved labor regulations, wages, health and safety in the workplace. That sounds good, right? None of those requirements apply to any nation other than USA at the outset. Reports suggest that the trade pacts also include some kind of Atlantic deal as well. Still other reports suggest that companies would be allowed to bring in three times as many foreign workers on H1B visas as are currently allowed. Finally, Congress will vote on a welfare and retraining package for workers displaced as a result of this/these deals. If the deal(s) was (were) good and would create new skilled jobs for Americans, why would there be a welfare and retraining package required?
So, again, the only thing all the reports agree upon is the secrecy surrounding this deal, and in matters of trade (not to be confused in any way with national security), secrecy is bad. The US Senate has already passed it, so call your Member of Congress and tell him or her to oppose it until it has been explained and debated. They would brag about it if it were good.
Opinions expressed in this essay are my own and not necessarily those of my employers.
Thank you for reading.
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