David Cay Johnston on why it matters so much that Harry Reid will not support fast track for the TPP:
In a rebuke to the White House, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada on Wednesday rejected the so-called fast track approval of trade agreements. President Barack Obama wanted an extension of the rule that requires a simple up or down vote on treaties — no modifications allowed — which means perfunctory debate.
Reid’s declaration is especially significant for two massive imminent deals, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. These deals would add hundreds of thousands of pages of finely detailed new rules on how goods and services cross borders. Just how many pages there are is as much of a mystery as just what those rules would be, with the exception of one leaked chapter from TPP on intellectual property. It runs 30,000 words.
Although we hear all the time about how much regulations thwart businesses, companies are the source of most regulations. Corporations spend vast sums on lawyers, lobbyists and other experts to add and revise government regulations, which can be fashioned to damage competitors, insulate markets from new firms, weaken labor and create barriers to litigation when companies cause harm.
As for companies too small to participate in the negotiations, they would have almost no chance under fast track to learn how they might be affected or to lobby for fairer rules.
Similarly, consumer organizations and unions must criticize without knowing what is in the proposed trade deals and what consequences will likely follow once the deals are locked into law.
If Reid stands firm, it means new trade deals are likely to be worked out in the open, where the people and their elected politicians can debate the merits. In other words, it will be a victory for democracy.
“Good call by Harry,” Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers, told me. The steelworkers, the most progressive industrial union, with members in many basic industries beyond steel, got to see the initial proposals but were not at the negotiating table even though the trade agreement would significantly affect its 850,000 working members.
On the other hand, Reid’s statements disappointed the National Association of Manufacturers. Linda Dempsey, its vice president for international economic affairs, said the NAM was not surprised by Reid’s action, adding that “manufacturers need a much more robust U.S. trade policy ... to sustain and grow manufacturing jobs here in the U.S.”
Dempsey called fast tracking, formally known as trade promotion authority, “absolutely critical” to increasing trade with countries beyond the 20 with which the U.S. now has agreements.