July 6, 2001
President Bushs reach for autonomy over trade agreements is running into opposition in Congress.
Call it "fast track" or by the Bush Administrations term "trade promotion authority," the proposal is to restrict Congress to an up-or-down vote, without amendments, on a foreign trade treaty. The IBEW is a steadfast opponent of fast track because it limits the ability of Congress to include worker and environmental protections.
"Opposition is growing because more members of Congress recognize that our government negotiates trade agreements that exploit workers and abuse the environment," said IBEW International President Edwin D. Hill. "The canard that side agreements protect workers and the environment just doesnt fool as many people as it used to."
The White House has not had a battle on fast track authority since 1994, when the IBEW and other concerned groups succeeded in defeating it.
The Administrations current request for fast track authority does not mention labor rights, human rights or the environment as goals for trade negotiators. Consequently, Robert Matsui (D-California) and 24 other House Democrats warned Bush in a letter last week, "Indeed it is safe to say that Congress will not approve trade promotion authority unless we constructively deal with these issues on a bipartisan basis."
A report in Congressional Quarterly says Democratic supporters of the House bill are hard to find. Even moderate Republicans that had supported similar measures in the past are finding the current legislation increasingly distasteful.