14 June 2015

Obama stopped in his free trade tracks

Free trade agreements are frequently referred to by dissenters as corporate rights agreements, and as I pointed out in a recent post, there are powerful reasons why politicians negotiate them in favour of corporate interests. But regardless of who they are primarily intended to serve, the agreements contain articles which seriously affect the public good, including in ways that have nothing to do with trade, and therefore should be subject to vigorous public debate. Unfortunately, they are not. On the contrary, they are negotiated in secret and presented to our legislatures fait accompli—take it or leave it.

It was, therefore, refreshing to see the U.S. House of Representatives deny President Obama the "fast track" trade negotiating authority he was seeking. Fast track would mean precisely that Congress would have no power to amend an agreement; it would either have to vote it through or reject it.

Ironically, Obama was rebuked principally by his own party, the House Democrats providing the major opposition. In a particularly harsh cut to Obama, Minority House Leader Nancy Pelosi, the ally of the president who muscled his health bill through the House, voted "no." Pelosi is not opposed to trade agreements but simply wanted to "slow this down" in hopes of better protecting U.S. workers and the environment.

This was a humiliating defeat for the president, but not undeserved. The arrogant "trust me" attitude of politicians and the undemocratic negotiating process of these agreements deserve humiliation. Unfortunately we are unable to administer similar rebukes to our government. We must therefore be grateful that at least some politicians, even if they aren't ours, are making a gesture for democratic process.

1 comment:

  1. I have always known that the difference between modern Republicans and Democrats is their party logo.

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