Conservative Review: "The Big Questions about Trade Promotion Authority"

 TPA.jpeg

As we stare down the barrel of an unbridled Obama administration ready to pull the trigger on any number of unilateral actions, conservatives must ensure that this president is not granted any more authority to fundamentally remake this country.  To that end, they should be cautious about the hasty efforts to pass Trade Promotion Authority, which could potentially grant Obama the irrevocable ability to insert odious extraneous provisions into trade agreements that enjoy popular bipartisan support.

[by Daniel Horowitz | April 23, 2015 | Conservative Review]

When most conservatives ponder issues related to trade agreements they instinctively think of lower taxes and regulations that promote free trade between free nations.  Naturally, lower tariffs and regulations foster more economic prosperity – an enticing proposition for any conservative.  TPA has also brought about increased economic opportunity with the recent Korea, Panama, and Columbia free trade deals. But in recent years, trade agreements have grown more complex and encompass many other policy issues with multiple countries; they can include an array of non-traditional trade issues; from intellectual property, global warming standards, labor issues, immigration, and restrictions on gun exports.  And remember, just as an international agreement can reduce red tape and regulations, it can create more regulations too.

As such, each trade agreement must be carefully scrutinized on its own merits to ensure that free trade is achieved but also to prevent this overzealous president from securing any provisions to override American laws beyond reducing trade barriers.

How does Trade Promotion fit in with Free Trade?

In order to grease the skids for popular trade agreements over the past few decades, Congress has, from time to time, passed “fast-track” trade promotion bills which dictate the parameters of trade agreements at the beginning of a negotiations cycle and expedite the legislative process to pass trade agreements for a limited period of time, typically a few years.

In preparation for several trade agreements, most notably the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement with about a dozen Pacific rim countries and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement with the 28-member European Union, President Obama and GOP leaders have both agreed to pass a Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA) this year.

The TPA would potentially allow Obama to introduce anything containing the name “trade agreement” and force an up-or-down vote in Congress – a vote that would not be subject to amendments or a Filibuster in the Senate.  Although Congress has passed such fast-track agreements with bipartisan support in the past, the complexity and comprehensive scope of modern trade agreements, coupled with the capricious nature and objectives of this administration, should give conservatives pause before they rush to support the TPA that just passed out of the Senate Finance Committee, The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015), S.995.

What is Constitutional?

Everyone agrees the president has Article II powers to negotiate trade agreements with foreign countries.  But Congress has plenary power over trade and commerce with foreign nations, pursuant to Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution; the president has no such power.  Should Congress abdicate that authority to a president who has a history of using executive power to engage in lawlessness?  Remember, TPP is not even called a trade agreement, it is a “partnership” – an agreement that will encompass many issues.

Many conservatives are eagerly rushing to support TPA because they are (rightfully) excited about the prospect of lowering trade barriers and tariffs.  But conservatives must ensure some iron-clad commitments against abuse before rushing into the TPA.

Congressional Oversight of TPA?

Free trade oriented conservatives who support TPA maintain that a fast track agreement will specifically define the parameters of an agreement and ensure that Obama is not able to override any of our laws on things like guns, immigration, labor, and environment.  Senate Finance is touting 150 directives to U.S. trade negotiators in his draft of TPA.  And indeed the fact sheet on the bill reads like a conservative wish list.  Section 8 of the Hatch-Wyden TPA states that any provision of a trade agreement that is inconsistent with U.S. law shall have no effect.   But there are two fundamental concerns with this promise:

1. One must trust Obama to follow those directives when he ignores fundamental existing statutes duly passed by Congress and on the books for decades.  Also those that control the levers of power, Orrin Hatch and Paul Ryan, are unlikely to fight any potential immigration issues that arise.

2. Any directives in this TPA are largely irrelevant because the TPP and other treaties have already been negotiated for years.  Hasn’t the train already left the station?  Again, unlike previous TPAs which were forged prior to entering negotiations, this one is just designed to grease the skids of an existing agreement.  Most members of Congress, aside from the top figures privyed to secret documents, have never seen the agreement, but it is widely known that it contains 30 chapters, including an entire one dedicated to immigration, as confirmed by the Australian government.

The New York Times obtained a secret document stating that TPP “would allow foreign corporations to sue the United States government for actions that undermine their investment “expectations” and hurt their business.”  Does that mean they could sue the U.S. for having immigration laws they don’t like?  Conservatives should find out more information to ensure no U. S. sovereignty is ceded.  If these rumors are true, they would run counter to the promises laid out in Section 8 of the TPA.

Now that the trade deal is almost fully completed, why not allow members to see the draft before passing the fast track mechanism? That way conservatives can vet the pact for any extraneous problems.  If there are no objectionable provisions then conservatives should pass the TPA and let everything proceed.

Could TPA be a Bad Deal?

Some Republican supporters of TPA suggest that there is no reason to fear a bad deal.  If indeed Obama sends Congress a trade agreement with objectionable and extraneous policy provisions, Republicans still control both houses of Congress and can vote down the trade deal.  They also tout the fact that this TPA will give members 60 days to review any agreement before the president formally joins the deal.  Section 6 (b) of the TPA allows Congress to rescind the fast track floor consideration if there is any violation of the directives laid out in TPA.

While a nice sounding argument, it does not hold much water because there is no way to practically stop a trade agreement supported by the establishments of both parties and the Big Business interests.  These groups will ignore conservative concerns and argue that it’s not worth blocking such economic opportunity over some “extraneous provisions.”  Conservative supporters of this TPA should be cautious not to telegraph the message to Obama that they will never pull out of any deal with the word trade mentioned thereof – no matter what odious provisions could be contained into the final TPP.

Absent dilatory tactics, the filibuster, or a two-thirds threshold, there is not an effective backstop once fast track authority is granted.  Any resolution to disapprove of the treaty and rescind fast track authority can only run through Orrin Hatch and Paul Ryan’s committees.  There is a reason why Obama enthusiastically supports the Hatch-Wyden TPA, and it’s certainly not because it boxes him in.  There are similar parallels to the Corker-Cardin Iran bill, which is also supported by Obama but being sold as a congressional restraint of the White House.   

Is Obama Sweetening the Pot for Democrats?

The only remaining group opposed to TPA is the liberal Democrat base of politicians who are controlled by the labor unions. The labor unions oppose free trade agreements because they like higher taxes, regulations, and dislike competition.  In order to buy them off, Obama, Hatch, and Ryan have agreed to pass Trade Adjustment Assistance, a subsidy bailout for labor unions “hurt” by trade agreements prior to passing TAA.

As such, conservatives should be even more cautious when approaching TPA.  If they show Obama that they are all onboard, he will continue to add sweeteners for Big Labor, thereby diluting some of the free market aspects of this agreement, in addition to concerns over sovereignty issues.   

Is Obama making secret promises to the left?

The White House is selling the TPP as the most progressive trade deal ever, one which will promote Obama’s environmental agenda and labor priorities.

So what are the provisions that speak to these progressive priorities? Will there be global warming regulations or wage regulations?  What about visa expansions or ceding U.S. sovereignty?

Is there a provision in the agreement allowing the deal to be modified or expanded in the future without the consent of Congress?
The public and almost all of Congress won’t know until the text of the underlying agreement is released.

The public and almost all of Congress won’t know until the text of the underlying agreement is released.

Where do things go from here?

Congress should be allowed to see the completed agreement and be given a full briefing on what is left unresolved before being coerced into voting for TPA.  If Congress is going to cede power to Obama on the backend – power that is politically impossible to revoke – they must be given more assurances on the front end.  Making the existing details of the TPP available to Congress before rushing into passing TPA would go a long way in building trust.

Alternatively, House and Senate conservatives should be given the opportunity to amend the TPA to explicitly ban any negotiations on visas or global warming.  They should also strengthen the provision allowing for the revocation of fast track authority by allowing any member to bring a resolution of disapproval to the floor by demonstrating a violation of the directives laid out in TPA.  At present, any resolution of disapproval must move through Senate Finance and House Ways and Means.  The likelihood of Paul Ryan or Orrin Hatch passing a resolution of disapproval out of their respective committees is about as high as Obama vetoing Obamacare.      

The question here is really simple: at a time when Republicans are eschewing conservative policy priorities and capitulating to Democrats on every major issue, will they spend the next month ceding more power to the president and reward his malfeasance with an opportunity to abuse Congressional trust and without the proper protections in place, achieve the greatest goals of Obama’s second term?

Passing TPA so Congress can find out what’s in an agreement that has already been written is not a good option.

What we are seeing here is not a debate over free trade, rather one over common sense and sound political judgement.  Caution, more debate, and increased transparency will go a long way to harmonizing the universal duel conservative goals of lowering trade barriers and preempting any power grabs by Obama.

n preparation for several trade agreements, most notably the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement with about a dozen Pacific rim countries and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement with the 28-member European Union, President Obama and GOP leaders have both agreed to pass a Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA) this year. 

The TPA would potentially allow Obama to introduce anything containing the name “trade agreement” and force an up-or-down vote in Congress – a vote that would not be subject to amendments or a Filibuster in the Senate.  Although Congress has passed such fast-track agreements with bipartisan support in the past, the complexity and comprehensive scope of modern trade agreements, coupled with the capricious nature and objectives of this administration, should give conservatives pause before they rush to support the TPA that just passed out of the Senate Finance Committee, The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015), S.995.

- See more at: https://www.conservativereview.com/commentary/2015/04/the-big-questions-about-trade-promotion-authority#sthash.FuciIhII.dpuf
When most conservatives ponder issues related to trade agreements they instinctively think of lower taxes and regulations that promote free trade between free nations.  Naturally, lower tariffs and regulations foster more economic prosperity – an enticing proposition for any conservative.  TPA has also brought about increased economic opportunity with the recent Korea, Panama, and Columbia free trade deals. But in recent years, trade agreements have grown more complex and encompass many other policy issues with multiple countries; they can include an array of non-traditional trade issues; from intellectual property, global warming standards, labor issues, immigration, and restrictions on gun exports.  And remember, just as an international agreement can reduce red tape and regulations, it can create more regulations too.  - See more at: https://www.conservativereview.com/commentary/2015/04/the-big-questions-about-trade-promotion-authority#sthash.FuciIhII.dpuf

When most conservatives ponder issues related to trade agreements they instinctively think of lower taxes and regulations that promote free trade between free nations.  Naturally, lower tariffs and regulations foster more economic prosperity – an enticing proposition for any conservative.  TPA has also brought about increased economic opportunity with the recent Korea, Panama, and Columbia free trade deals. But in recent years, trade agreements have grown more complex and encompass many other policy issues with multiple countries; they can include an array of non-traditional trade issues; from intellectual property, global warming standards, labor issues, immigration, and restrictions on gun exports.  And remember, just as an international agreement can reduce red tape and regulations, it can create more regulations too. 

As such, each trade agreement must be carefully scrutinized on its own merits to ensure that free trade is achieved but also to prevent this overzealous president from securing any provisions to override American laws beyond reducing trade barriers. 

How does Trade Promotion fit in with Free Trade?

In order to grease the skids for popular trade agreements over the past few decades, Congress has, from time to time, passed “fast-track” trade promotion bills which dictate the parameters of trade agreements at the beginning of a negotiations cycle and expedite the legislative process to pass trade agreements for a limited period of time, typically a few years. 

In preparation for several trade agreements, most notably the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement with about a dozen Pacific rim countries and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement with the 28-member European Union, President Obama and GOP leaders have both agreed to pass a Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA) this year. 

The TPA would potentially allow Obama to introduce anything containing the name “trade agreement” and force an up-or-down vote in Congress – a vote that would not be subject to amendments or a Filibuster in the Senate.  Although Congress has passed such fast-track agreements with bipartisan support in the past, the complexity and comprehensive scope of modern trade agreements, coupled with the capricious nature and objectives of this administration, should give conservatives pause before they rush to support the TPA that just passed out of the Senate Finance Committee, The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015), S.995.

What is Constitutional?

Everyone agrees the president has Article II powers to negotiate trade agreements with foreign countries.  But Congress has plenary power over trade and commerce with foreign nations, pursuant to Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution; the president has no such power.  Should Congress abdicate that authority to a president who has a history of using executive power to engage in lawlessness?  Remember, TPP is not even called a trade agreement, it is a “partnership” – an agreement that will encompass many issues. 

Many conservatives are eagerly rushing to support TPA because they are (rightfully) excited about the prospect of lowering trade barriers and tariffs.  But conservatives must ensure some iron-clad commitments against abuse before rushing into the TPA. 

Congressional Oversight of TPA?

Free trade oriented conservatives who support TPA maintain that a fast track agreement will specifically define the parameters of an agreement and ensure that Obama is not able to override any of our laws on things like guns, immigration, labor, and environment.  Senate Finance is touting 150 directives to U.S. trade negotiators in his draft of TPA.  And indeed the fact sheet on the bill reads like a conservative wish list.  Section 8 of the Hatch-Wyden TPA states that any provision of a trade agreement that is inconsistent with U.S. law shall have no effect.   But there are two fundamental concerns with this promise:

  1. One must trust Obama to follow those directives when he ignores fundamental existing statutes duly passed by Congress and on the books for decades.  Also those that control the levers of power, Orrin Hatch and Paul Ryan, are unlikely to fight any potential immigration issues that arise.
  2. Any directives in this TPA are largely irrelevant because the TPP and other treaties have already been negotiated for years.  Hasn’t the train already left the station?  Again, unlike previous TPAs which were forged prior to entering negotiations, this one is just designed to grease the skids of an existing agreement.  Most members of Congress, aside from the top figures privyed to secret documents, have never seen the agreement, but it is widely known that it contains 30 chapters, including an entire one dedicated to immigration, as confirmed by the Australian government.

    The New York Times obtained a secret document stating that TPP “would allow foreign corporations to sue the United States government for actions that undermine their investment “expectations” and hurt their business.”  Does that mean they could sue the U.S. for having immigration laws they don’t like?  Conservatives should find out more information to ensure no U. S. sovereignty is ceded.  If these rumors are true, they would run counter to the promises laid out in Section 8 of the TPA.

    Now that the trade deal is almost fully completed, why not allow members to see the draft before passing the fast track mechanism? That way conservatives can vet the pact for any extraneous problems.  If there are no objectionable provisions then conservatives should pass the TPA and let everything proceed

While a nice sounding argument, it does not hold much water because there is no way to practically stop a trade agreement supported by the establishments of both parties and the Big Business interests.

Could TPA be a Bad Deal?

Some Republican supporters of TPA suggest that there is no reason to fear a bad deal.  If indeed Obama sends Congress a trade agreement with objectionable and extraneous policy provisions, Republicans still control both houses of Congress and can vote down the trade deal.  They also tout the fact that this TPA will give members 60 days to review any agreement before the president formally joins the deal.  Section 6 (b) of the TPA allows Congress to rescind the fast track floor consideration if there is any violation of the directives laid out in TPA.

While a nice sounding argument, it does not hold much water because there is no way to practically stop a trade agreement supported by the establishments of both parties and the Big Business interests.  These groups will ignore conservative concerns and argue that it’s not worth blocking such economic opportunity over some “extraneous provisions.”  Conservative supporters of this TPA should be cautious not to telegraph the message to Obama that they will never pull out of any deal with the word trade mentioned thereof – no matter what odious provisions could be contained into the final TPP. 

Orrin Hatch & Ron Wyden discuss Senate Finance Committee IssuesAbsent dilatory tactics, the filibuster, or a two-thirds threshold, there is not an effective backstop once fast track authority is granted.  Any resolution to disapprove of the treaty and rescind fast track authority can only run through Orrin Hatch and Paul Ryan’s committees.  There is a reason why Obama enthusiastically supports the Hatch-Wyden TPA, and it’s certainly not because it boxes him in.  There are similar parallels to the Corker-Cardin Iran bill, which is also supported by Obama but being sold as a congressional restraint of the White House.   

Is Obama Sweetening the Pot for Democrats?

The only remaining group opposed to TPA is the liberal Democrat base of politicians who are controlled by the labor unions. The labor unions oppose free trade agreements because they like higher taxes, regulations, and dislike competition.  In order to buy them off, Obama, Hatch, and Ryan have agreed to pass Trade Adjustment Assistance, a subsidy bailout for labor unions “hurt” by trade agreements prior to passing TAA. 

As such, conservatives should be even more cautious when approaching TPA.  If they show Obama that they are all onboard, he will continue to add sweeteners for Big Labor, thereby diluting some of the free market aspects of this agreement, in addition to concerns over sovereignty issues.   

Is Obama making secret promises to the left? 

The White House is selling the TPP as the most progressive trade deal ever, one which will promote Obama’s environmental agenda and labor priorities.

So what are the provisions that speak to these progressive priorities? Will there be global warming regulations or wage regulations?  What about visa expansions or ceding U.S. sovereignty?

Is there a provision in the agreement allowing the deal to be modified or expanded in the future without the consent of Congress? 

The public and almost all of Congress won’t know until the text of the underlying agreement is released.

Where do things go from here?

Congress should be allowed to see the completed agreement and be given a full briefing on what is left unresolved before being coerced into voting for TPA.  If Congress is going to cede power to Obama on the backend – power that is politically impossible to revoke – they must be given more assurances on the front end.  Making the existing details of the TPP available to Congress before rushing into passing TPA would go a long way in building trust.

Passing TPA so Congress can find out what’s in an agreement that has already been written is not a good option.

Alternatively, House and Senate conservatives should be given the opportunity to amend the TPA to explicitly ban any negotiations on visas or global warming.  They should also strengthen the provision allowing for the revocation of fast track authority by allowing any member to bring a resolution of disapproval to the floor by demonstrating a violation of the directives laid out in TPA.  At present, any resolution of disapproval must move through Senate Finance and House Ways and Means.  The likelihood of Paul Ryan or Orrin Hatch passing a resolution of disapproval out of their respective committees is about as high as Obama vetoing Obamacare.      

The question here is really simple: at a time when Republicans are eschewing conservative policy priorities and capitulating to Democrats on every major issue, will they spend the next month ceding more power to the president and reward his malfeasance with an opportunity to abuse Congressional trust and without the proper protections in place, achieve the greatest goals of Obama’s second term?

Passing TPA so Congress can find out what’s in an agreement that has already been written is not a good option.

What we are seeing here is not a debate over free trade, rather one over common sense and sound political judgement.  Caution, more debate, and increased transparency will go a long way to harmonizing the universal duel conservative goals of lowering trade barriers and preempting any power grabs by Obama.

- See more at: https://www.conservativereview.com/commentary/2015/04/the-big-questions-about-trade-promotion-authority#sthash.FuciIhII.dpuf

When most conservatives ponder issues related to trade agreements they instinctively think of lower taxes and regulations that promote free trade between free nations.  Naturally, lower tariffs and regulations foster more economic prosperity – an enticing proposition for any conservative.  TPA has also brought about increased economic opportunity with the recent Korea, Panama, and Columbia free trade deals. But in recent years, trade agreements have grown more complex and encompass many other policy issues with multiple countries; they can include an array of non-traditional trade issues; from intellectual property, global warming standards, labor issues, immigration, and restrictions on gun exports.  And remember, just as an international agreement can reduce red tape and regulations, it can create more regulations too. 

As such, each trade agreement must be carefully scrutinized on its own merits to ensure that free trade is achieved but also to prevent this overzealous president from securing any provisions to override American laws beyond reducing trade barriers. 

How does Trade Promotion fit in with Free Trade?

In order to grease the skids for popular trade agreements over the past few decades, Congress has, from time to time, passed “fast-track” trade promotion bills which dictate the parameters of trade agreements at the beginning of a negotiations cycle and expedite the legislative process to pass trade agreements for a limited period of time, typically a few years. 

In preparation for several trade agreements, most notably the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement with about a dozen Pacific rim countries and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement with the 28-member European Union, President Obama and GOP leaders have both agreed to pass a Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA) this year. 

The TPA would potentially allow Obama to introduce anything containing the name “trade agreement” and force an up-or-down vote in Congress – a vote that would not be subject to amendments or a Filibuster in the Senate.  Although Congress has passed such fast-track agreements with bipartisan support in the past, the complexity and comprehensive scope of modern trade agreements, coupled with the capricious nature and objectives of this administration, should give conservatives pause before they rush to support the TPA that just passed out of the Senate Finance Committee, The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015), S.995.

What is Constitutional?

Everyone agrees the president has Article II powers to negotiate trade agreements with foreign countries.  But Congress has plenary power over trade and commerce with foreign nations, pursuant to Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution; the president has no such power.  Should Congress abdicate that authority to a president who has a history of using executive power to engage in lawlessness?  Remember, TPP is not even called a trade agreement, it is a “partnership” – an agreement that will encompass many issues. 

Many conservatives are eagerly rushing to support TPA because they are (rightfully) excited about the prospect of lowering trade barriers and tariffs.  But conservatives must ensure some iron-clad commitments against abuse before rushing into the TPA. 

Congressional Oversight of TPA?

Free trade oriented conservatives who support TPA maintain that a fast track agreement will specifically define the parameters of an agreement and ensure that Obama is not able to override any of our laws on things like guns, immigration, labor, and environment.  Senate Finance is touting 150 directives to U.S. trade negotiators in his draft of TPA.  And indeed the fact sheet on the bill reads like a conservative wish list.  Section 8 of the Hatch-Wyden TPA states that any provision of a trade agreement that is inconsistent with U.S. law shall have no effect.   But there are two fundamental concerns with this promise:

  1. One must trust Obama to follow those directives when he ignores fundamental existing statutes duly passed by Congress and on the books for decades.  Also those that control the levers of power, Orrin Hatch and Paul Ryan, are unlikely to fight any potential immigration issues that arise.
  2. Any directives in this TPA are largely irrelevant because the TPP and other treaties have already been negotiated for years.  Hasn’t the train already left the station?  Again, unlike previous TPAs which were forged prior to entering negotiations, this one is just designed to grease the skids of an existing agreement.  Most members of Congress, aside from the top figures privyed to secret documents, have never seen the agreement, but it is widely known that it contains 30 chapters, including an entire one dedicated to immigration, as confirmed by the Australian government.

    The New York Times obtained a secret document stating that TPP “would allow foreign corporations to sue the United States government for actions that undermine their investment “expectations” and hurt their business.”  Does that mean they could sue the U.S. for having immigration laws they don’t like?  Conservatives should find out more information to ensure no U. S. sovereignty is ceded.  If these rumors are true, they would run counter to the promises laid out in Section 8 of the TPA.

    Now that the trade deal is almost fully completed, why not allow members to see the draft before passing the fast track mechanism? That way conservatives can vet the pact for any extraneous problems.  If there are no objectionable provisions then conservatives should pass the TPA and let everything proceed

While a nice sounding argument, it does not hold much water because there is no way to practically stop a trade agreement supported by the establishments of both parties and the Big Business interests.

Could TPA be a Bad Deal?

Some Republican supporters of TPA suggest that there is no reason to fear a bad deal.  If indeed Obama sends Congress a trade agreement with objectionable and extraneous policy provisions, Republicans still control both houses of Congress and can vote down the trade deal.  They also tout the fact that this TPA will give members 60 days to review any agreement before the president formally joins the deal.  Section 6 (b) of the TPA allows Congress to rescind the fast track floor consideration if there is any violation of the directives laid out in TPA.

While a nice sounding argument, it does not hold much water because there is no way to practically stop a trade agreement supported by the establishments of both parties and the Big Business interests.  These groups will ignore conservative concerns and argue that it’s not worth blocking such economic opportunity over some “extraneous provisions.”  Conservative supporters of this TPA should be cautious not to telegraph the message to Obama that they will never pull out of any deal with the word trade mentioned thereof – no matter what odious provisions could be contained into the final TPP. 

Orrin Hatch & Ron Wyden discuss Senate Finance Committee IssuesAbsent dilatory tactics, the filibuster, or a two-thirds threshold, there is not an effective backstop once fast track authority is granted.  Any resolution to disapprove of the treaty and rescind fast track authority can only run through Orrin Hatch and Paul Ryan’s committees.  There is a reason why Obama enthusiastically supports the Hatch-Wyden TPA, and it’s certainly not because it boxes him in.  There are similar parallels to the Corker-Cardin Iran bill, which is also supported by Obama but being sold as a congressional restraint of the White House.   

Is Obama Sweetening the Pot for Democrats?

The only remaining group opposed to TPA is the liberal Democrat base of politicians who are controlled by the labor unions. The labor unions oppose free trade agreements because they like higher taxes, regulations, and dislike competition.  In order to buy them off, Obama, Hatch, and Ryan have agreed to pass Trade Adjustment Assistance, a subsidy bailout for labor unions “hurt” by trade agreements prior to passing TAA. 

As such, conservatives should be even more cautious when approaching TPA.  If they show Obama that they are all onboard, he will continue to add sweeteners for Big Labor, thereby diluting some of the free market aspects of this agreement, in addition to concerns over sovereignty issues.   

Is Obama making secret promises to the left? 

The White House is selling the TPP as the most progressive trade deal ever, one which will promote Obama’s environmental agenda and labor priorities.

So what are the provisions that speak to these progressive priorities? Will there be global warming regulations or wage regulations?  What about visa expansions or ceding U.S. sovereignty?

Is there a provision in the agreement allowing the deal to be modified or expanded in the future without the consent of Congress? 

The public and almost all of Congress won’t know until the text of the underlying agreement is released.

Where do things go from here?

Congress should be allowed to see the completed agreement and be given a full briefing on what is left unresolved before being coerced into voting for TPA.  If Congress is going to cede power to Obama on the backend – power that is politically impossible to revoke – they must be given more assurances on the front end.  Making the existing details of the TPP available to Congress before rushing into passing TPA would go a long way in building trust.

Passing TPA so Congress can find out what’s in an agreement that has already been written is not a good option.

Alternatively, House and Senate conservatives should be given the opportunity to amend the TPA to explicitly ban any negotiations on visas or global warming.  They should also strengthen the provision allowing for the revocation of fast track authority by allowing any member to bring a resolution of disapproval to the floor by demonstrating a violation of the directives laid out in TPA.  At present, any resolution of disapproval must move through Senate Finance and House Ways and Means.  The likelihood of Paul Ryan or Orrin Hatch passing a resolution of disapproval out of their respective committees is about as high as Obama vetoing Obamacare.      

The question here is really simple: at a time when Republicans are eschewing conservative policy priorities and capitulating to Democrats on every major issue, will they spend the next month ceding more power to the president and reward his malfeasance with an opportunity to abuse Congressional trust and without the proper protections in place, achieve the greatest goals of Obama’s second term?

Passing TPA so Congress can find out what’s in an agreement that has already been written is not a good option.

What we are seeing here is not a debate over free trade, rather one over common sense and sound political judgement.  Caution, more debate, and increased transparency will go a long way to harmonizing the universal duel conservative goals of lowering trade barriers and preempting any power grabs by Obama.

- See more at: https://www.conservativereview.com/commentary/2015/04/the-big-questions-about-trade-promotion-authority#sthash.FuciIhII.dpuf

When most conservatives ponder issues related to trade agreements they instinctively think of lower taxes and regulations that promote free trade between free nations.  Naturally, lower tariffs and regulations foster more economic prosperity – an enticing proposition for any conservative.  TPA has also brought about increased economic opportunity with the recent Korea, Panama, and Columbia free trade deals. But in recent years, trade agreements have grown more complex and encompass many other policy issues with multiple countries; they can include an array of non-traditional trade issues; from intellectual property, global warming standards, labor issues, immigration, and restrictions on gun exports.  And remember, just as an international agreement can reduce red tape and regulations, it can create more regulations too. 

As such, each trade agreement must be carefully scrutinized on its own merits to ensure that free trade is achieved but also to prevent this overzealous president from securing any provisions to override American laws beyond reducing trade barriers. 

How does Trade Promotion fit in with Free Trade?

In order to grease the skids for popular trade agreements over the past few decades, Congress has, from time to time, passed “fast-track” trade promotion bills which dictate the parameters of trade agreements at the beginning of a negotiations cycle and expedite the legislative process to pass trade agreements for a limited period of time, typically a few years. 

In preparation for several trade agreements, most notably the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement with about a dozen Pacific rim countries and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement with the 28-member European Union, President Obama and GOP leaders have both agreed to pass a Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA) this year. 

The TPA would potentially allow Obama to introduce anything containing the name “trade agreement” and force an up-or-down vote in Congress – a vote that would not be subject to amendments or a Filibuster in the Senate.  Although Congress has passed such fast-track agreements with bipartisan support in the past, the complexity and comprehensive scope of modern trade agreements, coupled with the capricious nature and objectives of this administration, should give conservatives pause before they rush to support the TPA that just passed out of the Senate Finance Committee, The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015), S.995.

What is Constitutional?

Everyone agrees the president has Article II powers to negotiate trade agreements with foreign countries.  But Congress has plenary power over trade and commerce with foreign nations, pursuant to Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution; the president has no such power.  Should Congress abdicate that authority to a president who has a history of using executive power to engage in lawlessness?  Remember, TPP is not even called a trade agreement, it is a “partnership” – an agreement that will encompass many issues. 

Many conservatives are eagerly rushing to support TPA because they are (rightfully) excited about the prospect of lowering trade barriers and tariffs.  But conservatives must ensure some iron-clad commitments against abuse before rushing into the TPA. 

Congressional Oversight of TPA?

Free trade oriented conservatives who support TPA maintain that a fast track agreement will specifically define the parameters of an agreement and ensure that Obama is not able to override any of our laws on things like guns, immigration, labor, and environment.  Senate Finance is touting 150 directives to U.S. trade negotiators in his draft of TPA.  And indeed the fact sheet on the bill reads like a conservative wish list.  Section 8 of the Hatch-Wyden TPA states that any provision of a trade agreement that is inconsistent with U.S. law shall have no effect.   But there are two fundamental concerns with this promise:

  1. One must trust Obama to follow those directives when he ignores fundamental existing statutes duly passed by Congress and on the books for decades.  Also those that control the levers of power, Orrin Hatch and Paul Ryan, are unlikely to fight any potential immigration issues that arise.
  2. Any directives in this TPA are largely irrelevant because the TPP and other treaties have already been negotiated for years.  Hasn’t the train already left the station?  Again, unlike previous TPAs which were forged prior to entering negotiations, this one is just designed to grease the skids of an existing agreement.  Most members of Congress, aside from the top figures privyed to secret documents, have never seen the agreement, but it is widely known that it contains 30 chapters, including an entire one dedicated to immigration, as confirmed by the Australian government.

    The New York Times obtained a secret document stating that TPP “would allow foreign corporations to sue the United States government for actions that undermine their investment “expectations” and hurt their business.”  Does that mean they could sue the U.S. for having immigration laws they don’t like?  Conservatives should find out more information to ensure no U. S. sovereignty is ceded.  If these rumors are true, they would run counter to the promises laid out in Section 8 of the TPA.

    Now that the trade deal is almost fully completed, why not allow members to see the draft before passing the fast track mechanism? That way conservatives can vet the pact for any extraneous problems.  If there are no objectionable provisions then conservatives should pass the TPA and let everything proceed

While a nice sounding argument, it does not hold much water because there is no way to practically stop a trade agreement supported by the establishments of both parties and the Big Business interests.

Could TPA be a Bad Deal?

Some Republican supporters of TPA suggest that there is no reason to fear a bad deal.  If indeed Obama sends Congress a trade agreement with objectionable and extraneous policy provisions, Republicans still control both houses of Congress and can vote down the trade deal.  They also tout the fact that this TPA will give members 60 days to review any agreement before the president formally joins the deal.  Section 6 (b) of the TPA allows Congress to rescind the fast track floor consideration if there is any violation of the directives laid out in TPA.

While a nice sounding argument, it does not hold much water because there is no way to practically stop a trade agreement supported by the establishments of both parties and the Big Business interests.  These groups will ignore conservative concerns and argue that it’s not worth blocking such economic opportunity over some “extraneous provisions.”  Conservative supporters of this TPA should be cautious not to telegraph the message to Obama that they will never pull out of any deal with the word trade mentioned thereof – no matter what odious provisions could be contained into the final TPP. 

Orrin Hatch & Ron Wyden discuss Senate Finance Committee IssuesAbsent dilatory tactics, the filibuster, or a two-thirds threshold, there is not an effective backstop once fast track authority is granted.  Any resolution to disapprove of the treaty and rescind fast track authority can only run through Orrin Hatch and Paul Ryan’s committees.  There is a reason why Obama enthusiastically supports the Hatch-Wyden TPA, and it’s certainly not because it boxes him in.  There are similar parallels to the Corker-Cardin Iran bill, which is also supported by Obama but being sold as a congressional restraint of the White House.   

Is Obama Sweetening the Pot for Democrats?

The only remaining group opposed to TPA is the liberal Democrat base of politicians who are controlled by the labor unions. The labor unions oppose free trade agreements because they like higher taxes, regulations, and dislike competition.  In order to buy them off, Obama, Hatch, and Ryan have agreed to pass Trade Adjustment Assistance, a subsidy bailout for labor unions “hurt” by trade agreements prior to passing TAA. 

As such, conservatives should be even more cautious when approaching TPA.  If they show Obama that they are all onboard, he will continue to add sweeteners for Big Labor, thereby diluting some of the free market aspects of this agreement, in addition to concerns over sovereignty issues.   

Is Obama making secret promises to the left? 

The White House is selling the TPP as the most progressive trade deal ever, one which will promote Obama’s environmental agenda and labor priorities.

So what are the provisions that speak to these progressive priorities? Will there be global warming regulations or wage regulations?  What about visa expansions or ceding U.S. sovereignty?

Is there a provision in the agreement allowing the deal to be modified or expanded in the future without the consent of Congress? 

The public and almost all of Congress won’t know until the text of the underlying agreement is released.

Where do things go from here?

Congress should be allowed to see the completed agreement and be given a full briefing on what is left unresolved before being coerced into voting for TPA.  If Congress is going to cede power to Obama on the backend – power that is politically impossible to revoke – they must be given more assurances on the front end.  Making the existing details of the TPP available to Congress before rushing into passing TPA would go a long way in building trust.

Passing TPA so Congress can find out what’s in an agreement that has already been written is not a good option.

Alternatively, House and Senate conservatives should be given the opportunity to amend the TPA to explicitly ban any negotiations on visas or global warming.  They should also strengthen the provision allowing for the revocation of fast track authority by allowing any member to bring a resolution of disapproval to the floor by demonstrating a violation of the directives laid out in TPA.  At present, any resolution of disapproval must move through Senate Finance and House Ways and Means.  The likelihood of Paul Ryan or Orrin Hatch passing a resolution of disapproval out of their respective committees is about as high as Obama vetoing Obamacare.      

The question here is really simple: at a time when Republicans are eschewing conservative policy priorities and capitulating to Democrats on every major issue, will they spend the next month ceding more power to the president and reward his malfeasance with an opportunity to abuse Congressional trust and without the proper protections in place, achieve the greatest goals of Obama’s second term?

Passing TPA so Congress can find out what’s in an agreement that has already been written is not a good option.

What we are seeing here is not a debate over free trade, rather one over common sense and sound political judgement.  Caution, more debate, and increased transparency will go a long way to harmonizing the universal duel conservative goals of lowering trade barriers and preempting any power grabs by Obama.

- See more at: https://www.conservativereview.com/commentary/2015/04/the-big-questions-about-trade-promotion-authority#sthash.FuciIhII.dpuf

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.