New Trade Bill Introduced in the Senate

A new trade bill has been introduced in the Senate. Hopefully this will not be yet another good piece of legislation that goes to committee to die.

According to Senator Sherrod Brown's Press Release:
The TRADE ACT would:

  • Require the Government Accountability Office to conduct a comprehensive review of existing trade agreements with an emphasis on economic results, enforcement and compliance, and an analysis of non-tariff provisions in trade agreements
  • Spell out standards for labor and environmental protections, food and product safety, national security exceptions, and remedies that must be included in new trade pacts
  • Set requirements with respect to public services, farm policy, investment, government procurement, and affordable medicines that have been incorporated in trade agreements
  • Require the president to submit renegotiation plans for current trade pacts prior to negotiating new agreements and prior to congressional consideration of pending agreements
  • Create a committee comprised of the chairs and ranking members of each committee whose jurisdiction is affected by trade agreements to review the president’s plan for renegotiations
  • Restore Congressional oversight of trade agreements.

Actual Trade Reform, Accountability, Development, and Employment Act of 2008 bill text. Also known as the Trade Act of 2008.

I've read through it briefly in order to point out some elements that probably won't make the press. One of the first things I'm noticing is they are going after real data and statistics and making accurate accountability a responsibility of the GAO. They have employment gains and losses as part of this data. I would add an additional labor department requirement of immigration status since insourcing is now a common method to displace US workers and move jobs and technology offshore. There is also a section on the effects and consequences of privatization of public services! Now, if only the United States would stop selling it's highways, bridges and seemingly any damn thing they can think of that is under the state or local government currently.

Interesting, instead of human, labor rights they are saying the country of origin record needs to be examined. I wonder if the United States will now make that list of countries we probably shouldn't trade with?

Instead of the usual labor, environmental standards, they have added safety standards and no privatization requirements of public works/services.

Here's one I love, it appears they are trying to not enable national security risks of assets such as the moving to China of technology critical to smart bombs or the Dubai Ports World deal.

Check this clause out:

The President shall submit to Congress a plan to
bring trade agreements in effect on the date of the enactment of this Act into compliance with the requirements of section 4(b) not later than 90 days (ed. before trying any further trade agreements)

They are also establishing a trade review committee. I guess that's ok, since they have an independent body, the GAO reporting accurate analysis. Peter DeFazio had earlier introduced a bill to establish a Congressional Trade Office, modeled on the Congressional Budget Office.

Jimmy Hoffa, President of the Teamsters has already Come out strong for this bill. He states:

The TRADE Act would set a new course for a better trade policy. It would:

  • Prevent another country from forcing unsafe practices or products on American citizens
  • Make sure international labor standards are enforced
  • Take away incentives for corporation to leave the U.S.
  • Prevent foreign corporations from challenging our laws in secret international tribunals
  • Make sure our government can promote good jobs and economic opportunity.

My opinion on the first pass scan of this bill, it doesn't go far enough, but a much stronger first step than we have seen in awhile. One of the issues is to make sure the United States plain doesn't lose on trade. In other words strategic trade, which ensures the United States, the people of the United States, plain win with their trading partners. Take steel just an example, it might be in the national interest to keep steel manufacturing in the United States since this is a critical need in times of war. There are many examples like this.