Fast-Track Trade Authority Is in the Works

It sounds like fast-track authority for trade deals is getting some traction, according to an article today in the Financial Times. The FT says that senior aides to influential committee chairman are gearing up to move legislation that would give the Administration the ability to craft trade deals that would go to the House and the Senate for up-or-down votes.

The push for fast track would ease the way for consideration of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement – a trade agreement well along in its negotiations and that could be considered next year.  Top U.S. negotiators are heading to Singapore for continued talks on TPP, which would include 12 countries in a comprehensive trade pact. The current members are Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, Vietnam, Canada, Mexico, and Japan.

That trade agreement would likely unravel without fast track because that would allow multiple special interests, including unions and environmental groups, to push for including their pet issues.  In addition, in November 2013, Wikileaks published a draft of the intellectual property chapter, which already has set off lots of opposing views on those issues.

Moving quickly on fast track won’t be easy.  The last time it was reauthorized was in 2007 under President Bush and ushered in the mandatory inclusion of labor and environment provisions in trade agreements.  Proponents of including non-trade issues in trade agreements are likely to be pushing for even more in a new Trade Promotion Authority bill.