A message from the National Farmers Union is alerting all members that legislation is before Congress to grant President Barack Obama ‘fast-track’ trade authority. Both the National and Ohio Farmers Union have come out against fast track authority for any president.
“We oppose fast-track negotiating authority for the president,” said NFU President Roger Johnson earlier this year.
“Trade agreements must be a fair deal for all parties – farmers, workers, and consumers, both in the United States and abroad. Previous trade deals haven’t lived up to this standard, so Congress should have full opportunity to review and amend provisions of a trade agreement, consistent with the U.S. Constitution,” Johnson said.
The Ohio Farmers Union passed a ‘special order of business’ at its annual convention in January coming out against fast track authority. From our special order on trade concerns:
The Ohio Farmers Union opposes congressional passage of so-called Trade PromotionAuthority, also known as “Fast Track” trade authority. Fast Track allows for executive branch negotiation of trade agreements and constrains Congress to a simple, up and down vote on the entire agreement with no chance for amendments. The U.S. Constitution grants Congress the “power … to regulate commerce with foreign nations.” Congress should not relinquish this authority and push the multitude of economic and human rights issues inherent in today’s trade agreements further away from being influenced by the American people through their representatives to Congress.
Congress has just introduced Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation. This bill will all but ensure that the Trans-Pacific Partnership would go through. It hands over the Constitutional authority of Congress to review trade agreements to the President. Many members of Congress have yet to declare their position on TPA. They need to hear from their constituents, like you, that TPA is the wrong course for U.S. farmers, ranchers, and rural communities.
Promises of expanded trade benefiting U.S. farmers and rural communities have been made during the debates for NAFTA, CAFTA, and the U.S.-Korean Free Trade Agreements and now the Trans-Pacific Partnership. These benefits have failed to materialize. Instead, rural communities have been roiled by profound economic instability. The trade deficit was $505 billion in 2014, a full 3 percent drag on our nation’s GDP.
Even agriculture, which typically has a surplus in trade, has suffered the consequences of free trade. On the three year anniversary of the U.S.-Korean Free Trade Agreement, agricultural exports to Korea have stagnated, growing an estimated zero percent, yet agricultural imports from Korea have increased 28 percent under the free trade agreement.
Because of the secrecy of the negotiating process, it is impossible to know whether domestic laws such as Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) and other policies to strengthen rural economies, including vital reforms that would reduce our existing trade deficit, are being traded away.
We urge lawmakers to reject fast track and ensure all future trade agreements address the substantial trade deficit.