Sen. Sessions issues 'Critical Alert' about Fast Track

Senator Jeff Sessions was one of the Republicans heroes who voted in the Senate Finance Committee to include a prohibition against currency manipulation in the Trans Pacific Partnership treaty that President Obama is now negotiating with 11 Pacific Rim countries.  Unfortunately, the amendment that he supported did not pass in committee.

As a result, President Obama was directed by the Senate Finance Committee to negotiate a treaty with 11 countries that would be "free trade" in name only.  Our trading partners would be given implicit permission to manipulate exchange rates in order to give their products hidden subsidies and American products hidden tariffs.

But that was just a committee vote.  The Senate as a whole has not voted to give Obama "Fast Track" power, called Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), to negotiate trade treaties without the possibility of congressional amendment.  On Sunday night, Senator Sessions issued a "Critical Alert," listing his "Top Five Concerns with Trade Promotion Authority":

1. Consolidation Of Power In The Executive Branch. TPA eliminates Congress’ ability to amend or debate trade implementing legislation and guarantees an up-or-down vote on a far-reaching international agreement before that agreement has received any public review….

2. Increased Trade Deficits. Barclays estimates that during the first quarter of this year, the overall U.S. trade deficit will reduce economic growth by .2 percent. History suggests that trade deals set into motion under the 6-year life of TPA could exacerbate our trade imbalance, acting as an impediment to both GDP and wage growth….

3. Ceding Sovereign Authority To International Powers. A USTR outline of the TransPacific Partnership (which TPA would expedite) notes in the “Key Features” summary that the TPP is a “living agreement.” This means the President could update the agreement “as appropriate to address trade issues that emerge in the future as well as new issues that arise with the expansion of the agreement to include new countries.”…

4. Currency Manipulation. The biggest open secret in the international market is that other countries are devaluing their currencies to artificially lower the price of their exports while artificially raising the price of our exports to them. The result has been a massive bleeding of domestic manufacturing wealth. In fact, currency manipulation can easily dwarf tariffs in its economic impact….

5. Immigration Increases. There are numerous ways TPA could facilitate immigration increases above current law—and precious few ways anyone in Congress could stop its happening.....

Sessions concluded that perhaps Congress should preserve its power, instead of giving it to President Obama:

Our job is to raise our own standard of living here in America, not to lower our standard of living to achieve greater parity with the rest of the world. If we want an international trade deal that advances the interests of our own people, then perhaps we don’t need a “fast-track” but a regular track: where the President sends us any proposal he deems worthy and we review it on its own merits.

Sessions is entirely correct here.  President Obama would use Fast Track power to negotiate a treaty that would increase America's trade deficits, thereby reducing America's economic growth and living standards. 

Furthermore, since these trade treaties would be "living agreements," they could be changed by a President in the future with no controls, whatsoever, from Congress.

Howard Richman with his father and son co-authored the 2014 book Balanced Trade: Ending the Unbearable Costs of America’s Trade Deficits, published by Lexington Books and the 2008 book Trading Away Our Future, published by Ideal Taxes Association.

Senator Jeff Sessions was one of the Republicans heroes who voted in the Senate Finance Committee to include a prohibition against currency manipulation in the Trans Pacific Partnership treaty that President Obama is now negotiating with 11 Pacific Rim countries.  Unfortunately, the amendment that he supported did not pass in committee.

As a result, President Obama was directed by the Senate Finance Committee to negotiate a treaty with 11 countries that would be "free trade" in name only.  Our trading partners would be given implicit permission to manipulate exchange rates in order to give their products hidden subsidies and American products hidden tariffs.

But that was just a committee vote.  The Senate as a whole has not voted to give Obama "Fast Track" power, called Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), to negotiate trade treaties without the possibility of congressional amendment.  On Sunday night, Senator Sessions issued a "Critical Alert," listing his "Top Five Concerns with Trade Promotion Authority":

1. Consolidation Of Power In The Executive Branch. TPA eliminates Congress’ ability to amend or debate trade implementing legislation and guarantees an up-or-down vote on a far-reaching international agreement before that agreement has received any public review….

2. Increased Trade Deficits. Barclays estimates that during the first quarter of this year, the overall U.S. trade deficit will reduce economic growth by .2 percent. History suggests that trade deals set into motion under the 6-year life of TPA could exacerbate our trade imbalance, acting as an impediment to both GDP and wage growth….

3. Ceding Sovereign Authority To International Powers. A USTR outline of the TransPacific Partnership (which TPA would expedite) notes in the “Key Features” summary that the TPP is a “living agreement.” This means the President could update the agreement “as appropriate to address trade issues that emerge in the future as well as new issues that arise with the expansion of the agreement to include new countries.”…

4. Currency Manipulation. The biggest open secret in the international market is that other countries are devaluing their currencies to artificially lower the price of their exports while artificially raising the price of our exports to them. The result has been a massive bleeding of domestic manufacturing wealth. In fact, currency manipulation can easily dwarf tariffs in its economic impact….

5. Immigration Increases. There are numerous ways TPA could facilitate immigration increases above current law—and precious few ways anyone in Congress could stop its happening.....

Sessions concluded that perhaps Congress should preserve its power, instead of giving it to President Obama:

Our job is to raise our own standard of living here in America, not to lower our standard of living to achieve greater parity with the rest of the world. If we want an international trade deal that advances the interests of our own people, then perhaps we don’t need a “fast-track” but a regular track: where the President sends us any proposal he deems worthy and we review it on its own merits.

Sessions is entirely correct here.  President Obama would use Fast Track power to negotiate a treaty that would increase America's trade deficits, thereby reducing America's economic growth and living standards. 

Furthermore, since these trade treaties would be "living agreements," they could be changed by a President in the future with no controls, whatsoever, from Congress.

Howard Richman with his father and son co-authored the 2014 book Balanced Trade: Ending the Unbearable Costs of America’s Trade Deficits, published by Lexington Books and the 2008 book Trading Away Our Future, published by Ideal Taxes Association.