(en) Fast Track Speeds Up!

Shawn Ewald (shawn@wilshire.net)
Thu, 25 Sep 1997 23:04:13 -0700


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------- Forwarded Message Follows ------- Date: Thu, 25 Sep 1997 18:14:33 -0700 (PDT) To: Campaign for Labor Rights E-Mail list <clr@igc.org> From: Mike Rhodes <clr2@igc.apc.org> Subject: Fast Track Speeds Up!

Labor Alerts/Labor News a service of Campaign for Labor Rights 1247 "E" Street SE, Washington, DC 20003 clr@igc.apc.org (541) 344-5410 http://www.compugraph.com/clr Action Alert: Fast Track Speeds Up [This alert is compiled from information provided by the Latin America Working Group, 110 Maryland Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; Tel. 546- 7010, e-mail: lawg@igc.org; web site: www.igc.apc.org/lawg] Summary: On September 16, President Clinton requested the Congress to pass "fast-track" legislation to grant him the authority to negotiate trade agreements in an expedited fashion. Fast track will limit the opportunity for congressional and public debate over trade agreements that can deeply affect the lives of people in the U.S. and abroad. Expanded trade can improve the U.S. economy, but trade agreements without labor and environmental standards can result in a "race to the bottom." Action: Contact your representative now to urge him or her to vote "no" on fast track legislation, which will likely be considered in October. Explain that you believe trade legislation should be fully and publicly debated. Demand that your representative support only trade agreements that incorporate enforceable labor and environmental standards into the core of the agreement. Capitol Switchboard: (800) 962-3524. Address: U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515. Background: "Fast track" is one means of granting authority to the President to negotiate trade agreements. Under this process, the White House negotiates a trade agreement, and writes the "implementing legislation" needed to change U.S. laws to adapt to the agreement. Congress must then vote yes or no with no amendments within 60 legislative days. Congress is limited to 20 hours of floor debate in

each chamber. The last fast-track authorization lapsed three years ago; the new fast-track legislation would last eight years. Fast-track proponents argue that Congress must give up its right to fully debate and amend implementing legislation in order to provide trade negotiators with credibility that the terms they negotiate with other countries will not be reversed by Congress. The ban on amendments permits members of Congress to accept a deal that includes many small items that will be bitterly contested by different sectors but that, proponents argue, results in the greater good. Opponents, however, believe that the issues covered by current trade agreements are broad and affect people's lives directly. Thus, they merit a full congressional and public debate. Domestic food safety, environmental protections, local investment and development standards, government procurement, and consumer protections are some of the many laws in the United States and in the other signatory countries that can be changed as a result of a trade agreement. Opponents also point out that the President can negotiate trade agreements without fast-track, and in fact does so frequently. Only two of 200 trade agreements recently negotiated by the United States were accomplished with fast track. The treatment of labor and environmental standards in trade agreements is currently the most controversial issue. Free traders want a "clean" fast-track bill, which eliminates or restricts labor and environmental provisions. Opponents, including labor unions and consumer and environmental organizations, want the President to have the authority to negotiate strong, enforceable labor and environmental standards in the core of the bill. The bill Mr. Clinton has just presented, however, restricts U.S. negotiations over labor and environmental issues to those "directly affecting" trade--a step backward from NAFTA. While the bill mentions worker rights and the environment as one of five "overall trade negotiating objectives," it directs the President to pursue these objectives through the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Labor Organization (ILO), rather than through bilateral or regional trade negotiations. Given that the WTO to date has been hostile to worker rights and environmental issues while the ILO is notoriously ineffective, this is hardly encouraging. While free traders portray labor and environmental matters as extraneous issues not belonging in a trade agreement, trade agreements today include many issues that go far beyond lifting tariffs and quotas and standardizing customs procedures. For example trade agreements like NAFTA require countries to change their foreign investment laws to treat foreign investors the same as national ones, to compensate for expropriated property in a manner consistent with U.S. law, to reduce agricultural subsidies, and to enforce intellectual property rights (like patents). These are enforceable issues at the core of the agreement, while labor and environmental issues have been relegated, at best as in NAFTA, to unenforceable side agreements. Taken all together, such requirements limit countries' ability to foster their own national development strategy, restricting

government promotion of agriculture and industry, preventing land reform and challenging environmental standards. The President's current fast-track legislation fails to safeguard labor rights and the environment in future trade agreements. Investments and patents are protected; workers and the environment are not. For more information, contact the Latin America Working Group, 110 Maryland Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; Tel. 546-7010, e-mail: lawg@igc.org; web site: www.igc.apc.org/lawg CAMPAIGN FOR LABOR RIGHTS memberships: Send $35.00 to CLR, 1247 "E" Street SE, Washington, DC 20003. For a sample copy of our newsletter, send your postal address to clr@igc.apc.org ---------------------------------------------------------------------- To receive our e-mail Labor Alerts send a message to clr@igc.apc.org with "labor alerts -- all campaigns" in the subject line or specify which labor issues interest: Nike, Disney, Guess, child labor, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, El Salvador, US farm workers, US poultry processing workers. If you would like to receive information which falls outside those categories (prison labor, workfare, other policy issues, additional briefing material on some campaigns), indicate that you want to be on out Additional Labor Information list AS WELL as our All Campaigns list. To stop receiving this service, check to see whether you have received our alerts directly from us or as a reposting via some other list. Send an email message to the address listed in the "return path" saying that you want to unsubscribe.

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