Free-Trade Masquerade: Fast Track Authority, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Constitutional Tipping Point, Part 1

After the mid-term elections, you may have heard Mitch McConnell make public statements about the GOP being willing to work with President Obama to push through free-trade agreements.  McConnell said that GOP leaders favor free trade and believe it brings prosperity to the country.

What you may not know is that the President is asking Congress to renew what is known as Fast Track Authority, allowing the President to negotiate and even sign trade treaties without the participation of the United States Congress.  Under Fast Track Authority, the President calls for Congress to vote either up or down on a treaty without allowing time for debate. Congress may not amend or filibuster the treaty.  Instead of the two-thirds majority approval needed to pass a treaty mandated by the United States Constitution, a fast track treaty needs only a simple 51% majority approval.

Currently, the President is negotiating a trade treaty called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  He and his Trade Representative are negotiating in secret with multinational corporations, but the Congress is not privy to the terms under negotiation.  That’s right, even before the Congress moves to renew Fast Track Authority allowing the President to negotiate trade treaties without congressional oversight, the President has already been engaged in what are basically unconstitutional and rogue negotiations conducted in secrecy.

Members of Congress are being locked out of the proceedings, while the “U.S. Trade Representative has given some 600 corporate lobbyists special ‘cleared advisor’ status that enables them to review and comment upon specific negotiating drafts.  U.S. negotiators have said they will not share texts with the public until after negotiations are completed—at which time it is virtually impossible to make substantive changes” (ObamaTrade.com).  So, just like the Affordable Health Care Act (ObamaCare), which passed by a simple 51% majority vote under Reconciliation, Congress will have to pass the TPP treaty in order to know what’s in it.

What Leaked Documents Tell Us About the TPP

Nevertheless, there have been documents leaked to Wikileaks that give us a glimpse into what is being cooked up for Americans. Stephanie Scruggs, from EndGlobalGovernance.com, tells us leaked documents reveal that, of 26 chapters, only two chapters deal with trade, while the remaining chapters deal with issues of global governance (not to be confused with government), such as regulation of the Internet, health and the environment, and that these chapters reveal a global system of rules “designed to dispossess Americans of authority over themselves and their government.”

So, though both Republicans and Democrats represent the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a free-trade agreement, perhaps evoking F.A. Hayek’s vision of a tariff-free market, in reality, the TPP, and other trade treaties, are more about implementing an overarching set of international laws that supersede American sovereignty and favor powerful, multinational corporations by subjecting the United States to the ‘jurisdiction of two systems of foreign tribunals, including the World Bank and the United Nations Tribunals.  These foreign tribunals would be empowered to order payment of U.S. tax dollars to foreign firms if U.S. laws undermined the foreign firms’ new special TPP privileges.  The TPP would establish a foreign judicial authority higher than even the U.S. Supreme Court that could overrule federal court rulings” (ObamaTrade.com).  Opponents to this treaty justifiably point out that this is unconstitutional.

Ambassador Alan Keyes notes that because, under the Constitution, treaties become law, it becomes possible to amend the U.S. Constitution by a series of treaties.  For that reason, America’s Founders were gravely concerned that members of Congress, those representatives elected to protect the people’s interests, should alone be authorized to negotiate treaties, and that those treaties should not be passed by less than a 2/3 majority approval.

The Nature of World Trade Today

John Fonte, senior fellow and director of the Center for American Common Culture at the Hudson Institute, has written a book outlining the many strategies by which European Nations had their system of laws, national sovereignty and economies collapsed so that those nations could be absorbed into the European Union (EU): Sovereignty or Submission: Will Americans Rule Themselves or Be Ruled by Others?”  Fonte describes the worldview and activities of the organization that, beginning in 1995, oversees trade between nations, the World Trade Organization (WTO):

“From the beginning, the WTO’s highest judicial organ, the Appellate Body, has seen its mission as not simply addressing trade disputes among nations, but incorporating trade issues within broader principles of a growing international legal regime.  Thus, trade disputes that were once negotiated among nations are now settled by supranational litigation in the WTO’s Appellate Body. A German legal advisor to the WTO sees it as part of a developing ‘world constitution.’  The current head of the WTO, Pascal Lamy, an ardent transnationalist, decries the ‘traditional models of national democracy as having ‘important limitations’ in their ability to ‘handle global problems.’  He prefers the EU model as ‘a new paradigm of global governance,’ saying that the ‘European construction is the most ambitious experiment in supranational governance ever attempted up to now” (pg. 167, my emphasis).

Note the words supranational and transnational, rather than international in the above cited passage.  You see, the problem with the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty is not that it seeks to reduce trade barriers between sovereign nations in order to free up trade: leaked documents and interviews with treaty negotiators indicate that the TPP seeks to impose a global governance paradigm which has now been embraced by virtually all global organizations, and that it seeks to create and implement a world constitution that supersedes national laws, courts and constitutions.  This paradigm is not international in nature, but supranational and transnational.  Recent and currently negotiated trade treaties are likely being used to draw Canada, the United States and Mexico into a bloc of countries known as the North American Union modeled on the European Union.

What Could They be Thinking?

Not long ago, I signed a petition and sent a letter to my Senators asking them to vote No on renewing Fast Track Authority and the TPP trade treaty.  In response, one of my Senators sent me an email containing this statement:

“The pursuit of reduced tariffs on trade items has been a fixture of the U.S. government policy since the trade wars of the 1930s that contributed to the economic stagnation of the Great Depression.  Trade liberalization is intended to expand economic growth and reduce consumer prices for goods and services enjoyed by the American people and companies.”

Perhaps the good senator is unaware of all the history touching on American and world trade.  We are so rarely presented with the facts these days.  The facts in this case are that, after WW ll, the major trading nations of the world organized the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).  Under GATT, the pitfalls of the 1930s were avoided while international trade was still maintained as relations among co-equal, sovereign nations:

“The GATT conducted multilateral trade negotiations for the purpose of reducing tariffs and trade barriers and thereby avoiding any repetition of the 1920s and early 1930s….  From the 1940s to the 1990s they reduced average tariff levels by almost 90 percent, and promoted economic growth and prosperity.  The GATT was a highly effective international institution based on negotiations, reciprocity, compromise and conciliation among member nation-states” (Fonte p. 167).

National sovereignty was preserved under GATT.  It wasn’t until 1994 that the World Trade Organization, with its aspirations for a world constitution that would supersede the laws of sovereign nation-states, was formed.  According to one Canadian trade negotiator, under the WTO, “The degree of obtrusiveness into domestic sovereignty bears little resemblance to the GATT.”  Claude Barfield, a free-trade expert at the American Enterprise Institute, told the U.S. Congress “The WTO’s dispute settlement system is ‘unsustainable’…because its structure over time will ‘create major questions of democratic legitimacy” (qtd. In Fonte p. 168). 

In addition, the senator does not indicate an awareness that Fast Track Authority, allowing the President to negotiate trade agreements, is relatively new and controversial.  The bill authorizing Fast Track Authority was not passed until 1974 and was considered temporary.  Though renewed several times since then, it laid mostly dormant except to negotiate the Uruguay Round.  In the early 1990s George H.W. Bush used it to negotiate NAFTA, considered by some to be one of the most damaging trade treaties in American history.  NAFTA was passed by a Democrat-controlled Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton.   From 1995-2002 House Republicans refused to renew Fast Track until George W. Bush asked Congress to reauthorize it.  According to Patrick Wood, except for about five treaties, the majority of treaties were still negotiated by Congress and passed by the traditional 2/3 majority approval.  In Wood’s view, Fast-Track authorized trade treaties really began under Bush and are being enacted under Obama.  

Ambassador Alan Keyes asks why Congress, particularly Republican members thereof, would trust President Obama to engage in secret trade negotiations when they, themselves, have referred to his administration as a lawless presidency.  Given Benghazi, Fast and Furious and the IRS scandal, why would Republicans trust the president to protect the interests of the American people?  The people of a country he doesn’t even seem to respect, I might add.

Dr. Keyes notes that there is evidence of collusion between the two major political parties.  Keyes believes that, more and more, the elected members of both parties see their power, not as a responsibility to protect the interests of their constituencies, but as a mandate to rule as they see fit.  Instead of seeing themselves as Americans first, they see themselves as Citizens of the World.

Keyes’ analysis is perhaps borne out by Christopher Lasch in his book The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy.  Lasch describes a rootless class of American elites lacking loyalty either to the places or peoples of their origins, and who, in place of Jeffersonian democracy, have set up a tyranny of meritocracy:

“Those who covet membership in the new aristocracy of brains tend to congregate on the coasts, turning their back on the heartland and cultivating ties with the international market of fast-moving money…. It is a question whether they think of themselves as Americans at all.  Patriotism, certainly, does not rank very high in their hierarchy of virtues….  The new elites are at home only in transit, en route to a high-level conference, to the grand opening of a new franchise, to an international film festival, or to an undiscovered resort.  Theirs is essentially a tourist’s view of the world—not a perspective likely to encourage a passionate devotion to democracy” (p. 6).

Would our congressmen and women grant foreign multinational corporations the right to sue Americans in a world tribunal? Would they sign to set up a court and law higher than the Supreme Court and the American Constitution?  Dick Morris and Eileen McGann show how Congress has been favoring the interests of foreign governments at the expense of the American people for quite awhile now:

“Has it ever seemed to you that America’s political leaders are sometimes ignoring our national interests? If so, here’s one possible reason for it: there are thousands of lobbyists, lawyers, PR firms, and political consultants in Washington, D.C., who are getting paid fat sums to push the agendas of foreign governments—often in direct opposition to what is best for the United States and the American people.  Under such pressure, our politicians too often march to the beat of a different drummer—and it’s foreign governments, through their lobbyists, who are calling the tune (p. 118)

In the next installment of this series, I will show how the TPP favors multinational corporations economically at the expense of American companies and businesses.

For now, I maintain that Fast Track Authority is an abdication of Congressional responsibility and a way to escape accountability to the American people.  Citizens of the World, or no, it is highly improbable that elected members of Congress or the President have the authority to cede American constitutional rights or sovereignty to a foreign or international body. 

Back to the Beginning

Fonte’s book, Sovereignty or Submission, discusses John Locke’s philosophy, which became the basis for our Declaration of Independence.  Fonte gives us Locke’s views on world government and national independence:

“More than simply national independence, Locke advocated what we would call ‘democratic sovereignty,’ arguing that authority was legitimate only with the consent of the governed.  If the government becomes a tyranny, the people had the right to revolution.  Lock explicitly rejected the Kantian notion that it would be legitimate for an independent democratic state to cede some of its sovereignty to a transnational or foreign political authority.”

Fonte then quotes from Locke’s Second Treatise on Civil Government:

‘The delivery also of the people into the subjection of foreign power either by the prince or by the legislature, is certainly a change of the legislative, and so a dissolution of government.  For the end why people entered into society being to be preserved one entire, free, independent society, to be governed by its own laws.  This is lost whenever they are given up into the power of another.’

 Fonte explains, “if the ‘legislative’ (or the democratic political process) transfers sovereign authority to an outside power, the nature of the ‘free, independent society’ itself is changed, amounting to a dissolution of government” (pp. 24-25).

Perhaps we should conclude here by reflecting upon the Founders’ remarks in the Declaration of Independence:

“To secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the Consent of the Governed.  That whenever any Form of Government becomes Destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to Institute a new Government….[When] a long train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing the same Object, evince a Design to reduce them under Absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide New Guards for their future Security.”

Americans, we have the Right—nay, the Duty—to reverse this trend.  Please stop the renewal of Fast Track Authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty.  Go to ObamaTrade.com and click on their Action Center to sign a petition and to send letters to your elected representatives.  You may also sign at EndGlobalGovernance.com.

 

Works Cited and Consulted

Fonte, John. Sovereignty or Submission: Will Americans Rule Themselves or Be Ruled by Others?  Encounter Books: New York, 2011.

Lasch, Christopher.  The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy.  W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.: New York, London: 1995.

 Morris, Dick and Eileen McGann.  Fleeced: How Barack Obama, Media Mockery of Terrorist Threats, Liberals Who Want to Kill Talk Radio, The Do-Nothing Congress, Companies that Help Iran, and Washington Lobbyists for Foreign Governments are Scamming Us and What to do About It.  HarperCollins Publishers, New York: 2008.

 Stumo, Michael, Curtis Ellis, Alan Keyes, Judsen Philips, Phyllis Schlafly, Stephanie Scruggs and Patrick Wood.  Top 5 Reasons to Deny President Obama Fast Track Authority.  Online Webinar held November 10, 2014.

 

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3 Responses to Free-Trade Masquerade: Fast Track Authority, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Constitutional Tipping Point, Part 1

  1. Robert Ferguson says:

    I ask you to please vote no on oboma trade. thank you,Robert Ferguson

  2. Pingback: The Trans-Pacific Partnership: America on the Auction Block

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