WTO Talks Collapse, Fast Track Fight Looms
Invitation to strategy session at NCSL Annual Meeting
While the World Trade Organization's "Doha Round" of trade talks collapsed last month amidst finger pointing and recriminations, state officials may want to note an equally important milestone - the means by which the White House sets trade policy, known as "Fast Track" Trade Promotion Authority, expires in July 2007.
The expiration and the anticipated drive by the Bush administration to reauthorize Fast Track means that next year will be a once-in-a-decade opportunity for states to change the trade policymaking process. A new process is needed to ensure early, informed and meaningful consultation with state officials and require states' prior informed consent to any provision in any trade agreement that impacts their regulatory authority.
Public Citizen cordially invites you to a special breakfast during the Annual Meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures in Nashville, Tennessee on Wednesday, August 16th 2006 from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. Here, you will be able to share ideas and information with other state legislators, as well as learn:
- The latest on the collapse of WTO talks and the fate of service sector negotiations
- How to introduce a model bill or resolution in your state that demands states be given a formal role in the trade negotiation process
- Methods of mobilization and action to ensure real change at the federal level
or e-mail Sehar Raziuddin for more information
Background on WTO Talks and the GATS
In recent months, states have been voicing their concerns about the expansion of the GATS - the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services - which sets rules over service sectors. The GATS places limits on the types of domestic policies federal, state and local governments can enact with regard to control and ownership of public services and regulation of private-sector service providers.
The collapse of the WTO talks means state officials can rest assured for now that federal trade negotiators will not be making any new sweeping GATS commitments through the WTO. Make no mistake however, multinational insurance firms, for-profit education providers, and mega-retailers eager to push the GATS are already looking ahead to the next major trade fight in the United States - the sunset of Fast Track. In the end, these multinational businesses know that they will only get their GATS agenda through Congress by squashing any new proposals for democratic means of negotiating trade and instead sticking with the fundamentally undemocratic Fast Track mechanism.
The Failed Fast Track Model
Under Fast Track, Congress' Constitutional authority to negotiate the terms of trade terms is delegated to the Executive Branch. The Executive Branch negotiates the trade agreement, signs it and writes the implementing legislation. Congress' role is reduced to a "yea" or "nay" vote with no amendments. This terrible process was used not only to pass NAFTA and WTO with little debate or scrutiny, but also the more recent regional and bilateral pacts including the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and the Oman Free Trade Agreement (OFTA). For state officials, a key point of concern is how Fast Track entirely excludes state interest and input from state legislators.
The United States Trade Representative (USTR) has abused the power it has accrued under Fast Track to negotiate provisions in international agreements that undermine many areas of traditional state and local authority under the U.S. system of federalism, such as zoning and land use, health care, gambling, education and more. USTR overreaches in these areas have fueled the growing opposition to U.S. trade policies by state and local officials including by Governors, Attorneys General, State Legislatures, State Courts and others.
Needed: A New Process for Negotiating Trade
Trade agreements can be made better in numerous ways: by including stronger labor, human rights and environmental standards; by safeguarding every country's right to promote the creation of quality jobs and; by safeguarding domestic regulatory authority. But this will only happen if the trade policymaking process becomes more democratic and engages states meaningfully in negotiations of trade agreement rules that impact their regulatory authority.
The pending legislative fight in 2007 over the sunset of Fast Track provides states with an unprecedented opportunity to get ahead of the curve and demand that Fast Track be replaced. What is needed is an explicit mechanism for consultation with state and local officials before the federal government negotiates any trade agreements - a system of prior informed consent.
Public Citizen looks forward to discussing Fast Track and the opportunities for creating a more democratic alternative with you at the NCSL Annual Meeting in Nashville. Let's capitalize on this unique historical moment, when the global trading system is in temporary disarray, to press for the type of trade policies that benefit workers, consumers and the environment, and respect state sovereignty and our system of checks and balances.
To learn more about how international "trade" agreements undermine state and local authority, please contact Saerom Park at 202-454-5127 or Sehar Raziuddin at 202-454-5193.
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