Fast trick on fast track

While Congress remains in its bipartisan spasm, Bush Administration fast talkers try to pass fast track on free trade by placing it into their national unity package. Fast track gives the President power to negotiate broad trade agreements like NAFTA subject only to a yes-or-no vote by Congress. These supposed free trade agreements afford maximum benefits to multi national corporations and leave labor and environment without protection.

Impulsively reacting to the September 11 events, Congress increased the military budget and granted expanded powers to this president of limited ability. Now, seeing that they can con Members by waving a flag in front of their face, the Administration presents a stale trade package as part and parcel of a new plan to win the war against terrorism. By opposing Trade Promotion Authority — the sanitized nomenclature for fast track — Administration flaks imply that Members could expose themselves to charges of unpatriotic behavior.

Before September 11, the surging number of unemployed had caught Congress’ attention and some Republicans even joined most Democrats in demanding that the bill force nations paying sub-par wages to adopt expensive i.e humane labor and environmental rules. The Administration balked. That would have defeated the whole purpose of fast track, which is to insure low wage labor abroad.

But now, House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas waving the bi-partisan flag, has convinced several Democrats to support speedy mark up for fast track. Thomas wants to zip the bill through the House in a few weeks before Members can regain their courage to voice their pre September 11 objections to this dubious legislation. Thomas claims, falsely, that the new proposal incorporates concerns about labor and environment. Close scrutiny reveals that the proposal only calls on U.S. trade officials to seek labor and environmental provisions in future trade agreements; not make them mandatory. Nor does the bill demand that countries respect the recognized standards established by the International Labor Organization.

Under this supposed compromise bill, US officials would seek commitments by governments to enforce their existing and grossly inadequate domestic laws.

The proposal calls for “promoting consideration” of Multilateral Environmental Agreements, such as the international conventions on biodiversity and climate change, not enforcing them. The fast track proposal ignores the issue of legal power granted to corporations under NAFTA, which elevate investment uber literally alles.

US Trade Rep, Robert “The zealous” Zoellick now calls Fast Track an essential tool in the war on terrorism. “This is not the time for the United States to be further paralyzed and not move forward on trade and openness,” he asserts, trying to intimidate the opposition.

Other government rhetoric talks of the role of fast track in stabilizing the US economy and in rallying the rest of the world to fight terrorism; cooperating non-terrorist countries would get a supposed share in global prosperity — access to rich foreign markets.

Bush will entice poor countries into joining his anti-terror coalition by allowing them to sell their products here.

The terrorists succeeded in the short run in stopping the wheels of corporate globalization, but the fast trackers are intent on derailing the thought processes of Members of Congress. It’s simple math. The equation of terrorism with anti-fast track equals exploitation of labor and destruction of the environment.

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