WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the Senate Finance Committee holds a markup on fast track authority for the Obama Administration to finalize negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other NAFTA-style trade agreements, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced amendments that he will offer to strengthen the package for American manufacturers, workers, and consumers.
“We shouldn’t give fast track authority if we can’t guarantee a level playing field for American workers and manufacturers, or if we can’t prevent communist China from joining the pact at a later date,” Brown said. “We must prevent more NAFTA-style deals from giving corporations handouts while workers get sold out.”
Amendments to the Fast Track/Trade Promotion Authority Bill
Mandatory Negotiating Objectives
Brown Amendments #1 and #2: Short Title: To require the United States Trade Representative to achieve Congress’ negotiating objectives in trade agreements and to define principal negotiating objective.
Right now, fast track provides a roadmap of Congress’ priorities for trade deals – like ensuring that our trading partners protect intellectual property or follow similar labor, environmental, and human rights standards. However, today’s fast track bill requires only that the President “makes progress in achieving” the negotiating objectives provided by Congress. Brown’s amendment would ensure that if Congress is going to limit the legislative process for future trade agreements, that those agreements meet Congress’ objectives.
Ensuring Trade Deals Don’t Undermine Public Health
Brown Amendment #8: Short Title: Principal negotiating objective with respect to public health
While free trade agreements have significant public health implications, the fast track bill being considered today does not include a negotiating objective on public health. This amendment would insert a negotiating objective on public health that would ensure that USTR negotiates trade agreements that maintain U.S. public health commitments and promote access to medicines, while protecting intellectual property.
Preventing Corporate Overreaches through Trade Deals
Brown Amendment #17: Short Title: Striking investor-state from investment negotiating objective
Investor-state-dispute settlement (ISDS) is written into trade deals and provides for an extrajudicial way for corporations to sue governments for regulating or passing laws. Investor state provisions allow corporations – like tobacco companies – to use trade agreements to challenge laws that they argue undermine their investment in a particular country. State, local, and federal governments shouldn’t have to be looking over their shoulder every time they decide to pass a public health measure, or deny a permit for environmental reasons. Investor-state dispute settlement allows corporations to challenge laws using arbitration panels. ISDS represents another way for corporations to maximize profits by challenging government regulations they don’t like in an extrajudicial system with rulings that are divorced from precedent. Brown’s amendment would ensure that future trade agreements can be concluded without ISDS.
Ensuring that Our Trading Partners Follow Similar Labor, Environmental Standards
Brown Amendments #24, #25, #26, #29, #30, and #31: Short Title: Strengthening Labor and Environmental Standards.
If we don’t strengthen the labor standards in our trade agreements and force our trading partners to live up to them, we’ll continue to ship American jobs overseas as companies seek to maximize profits with cheaper labor. Brown’s amendment would strengthen labor and environmental standards in future free trade agreements. In addition to strengthening the language on dispute settlement and the definition of labor laws and international labor standards, this amendment would strike language allowing labor and environmental standards to be waived and would strike language that allows U.S. trading partners to violate the labor and environmental standards more than once without being in violation of an agreement.
Standing up for Jobs in the Auto and Steel Industries
Brown Amendments #42, #43: Short Title: Consultation requirements on automobiles, auto parts, and industrial products.
Given the significance and sensitivity of the auto and steel sectors, the President should consult with Congress before negotiating a trade agreement that reduces tariffs on foreign auto and steel imports, just as he does for agricultural products. Brown’s amendments would require the President to assess whether a trade agreement would benefit the auto sector and the industrial sector, including the steel sector, before beginning negotiations or continuing negotiations.
Preventing TPP from Becoming a Trade Deal with China
Brown-Menendez-Stabenow-Schumer-Casey Amendment #51: Short Title: Prevent China from Docking onto TPP without congressional oversight
Last year, China’s communist leaders expressed interest in joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and news reports indicate they are monitoring the talks closely. But China manipulates its currency, floods our market with subsidized and dumped steel imports, and pursues industrial policies designed to undercut American manufacturing. This amendment would make clear that this fast track bill does not apply to other countries joining TPP and would spell out the process for future TPP partners to join the agreement. The amendment would require Congress to vote to certify that a new country considering joining TPP has met the standards of the agreement.