Why Bush Wants TPA Extended: President Bush Wants Trade Promotion Authority for the Sake of "Free Trade," but There Is a Growing Grass-Roots Resistance to the Harmful Consequences of His Trade Agenda

By Capo, Jim | The New American, May 14, 2007 | Go to article overview

Why Bush Wants TPA Extended: President Bush Wants Trade Promotion Authority for the Sake of "Free Trade," but There Is a Growing Grass-Roots Resistance to the Harmful Consequences of His Trade Agenda


Capo, Jim, The New American


Without action by Congress, the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) powers of the president will expire at midnight on July 1. This authority, formerly known as Fast Track, was first extended by Congress to President Nixon with the Trade Act of 1974. It has been used to place the United States in such trade pacts as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

Although the TPA powers have been employed by both Republican and Democrat presidents to get trade pacts through Congress, the TPA-spawned pacts collectively advance a similar agenda. That agenda is euphemistically called "free trade" by its promoters, despite the fact that it is not genuine free trade. Genuine free trade entails the free flow of goods without any outside government involvement. But when the fine print of trade agreements is fully explored, it becomes clear that the TPA trade-agreement process is not about eliminating government involvement but about who will make the rules. Put simply, the agreements restrict the ability of the United States to set its own trade policies by transferring decision making to regional and global arrangements as part of a broader agenda called "globalization."

Consider the binding nature of NAFTA's Chapter I I tribunal rulings, which many congressmen did not even notice when they voted for NAFTA in 1993. In April 2004, with these tribunals established and issuing rulings, the New York Times quoted California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George as warning: "There are grave implications here. It's rather shocking that the highest courts of the state and federal governments could have their judgments circumvented by these tribunals."

President George W. Bush supports the "free trade" agenda. He also wants to continue using Trade Promotion Authority to advance that agenda and has called on Congress to extend his TPA authority. But there has been growing grass-roots resistance to the TPA-spawned agreements based on both their economic consequences and their neutering of U.S. sovereignty.

The "Free Trade" Agenda

U.S. adoption of the NAFTA agreement in 1993 under "fast track" rules provided a foundation for the so-called free-trade agreements that followed--as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger predicted when the NAFTA agreement was still being debated: "[NAFTA] will represent the most creative step toward a new world order taken by any group of countries since the end of the Cold War, and the first step toward an even larger vision of a free-trade zone for the entire Western Hemisphere.... [NAFTA] is not a conventional trade agreement, but the architecture of a new international system."

President Bush supports NAFTA and wants to build upon it. "NAFTA has worked," he claimed last March 14 in Mexico. "You don't want to weaken NAFTA; you want to make sure it stays strong in order that prosperity continues to expand and people benefit on both sides of the border." Of course, that rosy assessment of a NAFTA economic boom contrasts sharply with the mounting evidence of economic devastation wrought by NAFTA and other so-called free-trade agreements. Last year, for instance, an Economic Policy Institute briefing paper about NAFTA found that "growing trade deficits with Mexico and Canada have pushed more than 1 million workers out of higher-wage jobs and into lower-wage positions in non-trade related industries." The paper also found that "the displacement of 1 million jobs from traded to non-traded goods industries reduced wage payments to U.S. workers by $7.6 billion in 2004 alone."

President Bush disagrees that NAFTA has been bad for the economy as a whole, and in 2005 he strongly lobbied lawmakers to get a similar trade agreement, CAFTA, through Congress, extending the NAFTA concept to Central America.

But the president does at least acknowledge that some American workers have lost their jobs despite the economic boom he credits to NAFTA. …

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