FAST-TRACK OF TPP TRADE PACT PASSES SENATE BY ONE VOTE

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East County News Service

Photo: Protest at Senator Feinstein's office, from the Citizens Trade Campaign Facebook page

June 25, 2015 (Washington D.C.) – The controversial fast-tracking of the Trans Pacific Partnership international trade pact passed the Senate by a slim one-vote margin. California’s Senator Dianne Feinstein voted for the fast-tracking, while Senator Barbara Boxer voted no.

Fast-tracking gives President Obama broad latitude to negotiate the trade pact, after which Congress will have only an up or down vote, with no opportunity to make changes.  Opponents have voiced concerns over secrecy of the proceedings. The proposed pact has not been made public, nor have members of Congress been allowed to have copies. 

Nicole “Kali” Gochmanosky,  southern California organizer for the Citizens Trade Campaign, a group opposed to fast-tracking the TPP, had this to say regarding the extensive media coverage of the vote and protests targeting Feinstein.

(View video of protest at Senator Feinstein’s San Diego office, where protesters were denied entry, except for one representative.)

“…People are hearing that she voted for Fast Track with no support from workers who will loose their jobs, or those concerned about weakened human rights provisions or being handcuffed on any negations on climate change action, or nurses concerned with access to medicine, or many others for many more reasons.”

The measure had support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other pro-business and corporate groups.

The Trade Promotion Authority measure that authorizes the fast-tracking of the TPP has also passed the House of Representatives.  Among San Diego’s Congressional representatives, only Republican Duncan Hunter voted no.  Republican Darrell Issa joined with Democrats Scott Peters and Susan Davis to vote yes, while Democrat Juan Vargas did not vote.

Congresswoman Davis, in an e-mail to constituents, offered this justification of her vote.

“Many constituents called to voice their opposition to TPA, and I share many of their concerns,” she wrote.  But she added, “While I understand the potential downsides, I ultimately supported TPA to allow President Obama to continue his efforts to negotiate trade agreements that strengthen America’s economy, improve national security, and protect workers and the environment.  I also supported TPA because it guarantees that the public and Congress maintain the right to review any future trade agreements for set amounts of time before they are signed and before any vote comes to the floor of the House.”  

Rep.  Hunter, in a letter urging House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy not to muscle through the fast-track bill, voiced concerns that it could allow the President to add other countries such as China or change labor provisions. In addition, Hunter voiced concerns over a Trans-Pacific Partnership Commission that would be formed, Breitbart News reports.

Hunter warned that this would diminish the sovereignty of the United States. He wrote, ““The new Commission would be a self-governing, continuing body authorized to issue policies and regulations affecting our economy, our manufacturers, our workers, our immigration procedures, as well currency, labor and environmental practices. It is one thing to enhance executive authority with respect to a narrow set of trade policies, it is another to fast-track the creation of a new international structure before a single detail about that structure has been made available to the public.”

Rep. Peters explained his vote for the fast-track in a letter sent to supporters. “There were really good cases for both sides, and I did not arrive at this decision lightly,” he wrote. “Our economy, both in San Diego and across the country, depend on trade. Our biotech and hi-tech companies depend on exporting their goods, and as a port city, San Diego depends on access to foreign markets. But trade only works if we set the rules. If we don’t step up, someone else like China will. We need to set the standard for how the global market operates. If we don’t, we risk the system being rigged against us to the detriment of American workers,” Peters stated, adding that Friday’s vote was not on the actual trade agreement, but on giving  President Obama the authority to negotiate the agreement.

“When TPP comes up for a vote in a few months, my decision will be based on what President Obama negotiates and if he follows through on his promises,” Peters said, adding that he understands the skepticism among some of his constituents. “Trade deals have burned us in the past; many parts of San Diego are still feeling the effects of NAFTA,” he noted, adding, “But I truly believe that the best way to fix some of the problems of our past trade agreements is to create new ones with better, stronger regulations. I believe that the TPP, if negotiated correctly, can do this.”