If Rep. Paul Ryan is the poster boy for a piece of legislation, you know it’s trouble for progressives. We don’t have to look any further than the fight over Trade Promotion Authority, known as “fast track,” to see Ryan, the Republican spin-doctor, in high gear.
Just yesterday morning Ryan was on NPR reeling off Republican talking points on trade. He was asked how the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would change America, his answer: it levels the playing field. But the real question is for whom does this trade deal level the playing field? Not the thousands of workers who will lose their jobs to cheaper labor in countries like Vietnam. Not the American consumer who will be subjected to decreased food and safety standards.
In fact, under TPP state and federal laws will be subject to lawsuits by multinational corporations outside our legal system in secret tribunals run by corporate lawyers. Rep. Ryan claims these arguments about America’s sovereignty are red herrings; corporations and foreign governments won’t challenge U.S. regulations at any level of government. But just two weeks ago Congress was forced to pass a bill because of a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling under NAFTA wiping out the popular U.S. country-of-origin meat labeling (COOL) policy. This consumer protection law required the labeling of pork and beef sold in the United States to inform consumers the country in which the animals were born, raised and slaughtered. Corporations didn't want it.
Trade deals should be about what we aspire trade to be, raising standards both here and abroad. We want trade and we want strong trade treaties that lift people’s wages, create jobs and raise standards, both in the United States and in other countries.
Unfortunately, the TPP doesn’t do that. Congress has been completely left out in the negotiations, meaning the American people have been completely left out of the negotiations. In fact, this week the House Rules Committee was given a 23-minute notice the TPA bill was being voted on. That is the definition of a broken legislative process. In less time than it takes to watch a whole episode of the Simpsons, we were supposed to come to a decision on "fast track," giving up our ability to impact the TPP or any other trade deal over the next six years—well into the next President's administration.
So don’t believe the Washington speak coming from people like Rep. Ryan. If we want the American people to have a voice, a real voice, we must retain our authority to impact trade deals. Let’s get it right—not just fast.