Trade Act provides road map to new American trade model

Original Publication Date: 
29 June, 2009

WOW - when's the last time 106 congressional Representatives - 9 full committee chairs and 40 subcommittee chairs included - were original cosponsors of any legislation, much less agreed on a new way forward on the contentious issue of trade? 


Last week, when Rep. Mike Michaud introduced the Trade Reform Accountability Development and Employment (TRADE) Act of 2009 he had double the original cosponsors of last year's bill. Plus, it was a very diverse 106: 17 New Dems, 14 Blue Dogs, half the Congressional Black Caucus and swaths of the Hispanic and Progressive caucuses. (List of cosps and breakdown of caucuses etc at:  )


The TRADE Act represents change Americans can believe in -- delivering on the broad public expectation that Congress and the President will create a new American trade policy and fix past agreements like NAFTAm, as promised.  And, the legislation offers the White House a path around an ocean of political quicksand because it is a road map forward for trade expansion that Democrats support.  It does this by fixing the many core conflicts between the current NAFTA-style trade pacts and the Democrats' core agenda - from good jobs and a clean environment to safe food and affordable, quality services.


At Michaud's news conference introducing the bill, which included Rules Committee Chair Slaughter, Subcommittee Chair DeLauro, freshmen Perriello and Tonko and 2006 class member Sutton, several members noted that by moving Congress and the public to what we are for, the bill could take us out of the rut of repeated fights against more-of-the-same NAFTA-style trade pacts. They noted that they all supported expanded trade and would fight fiercely for a new way forward to harvest the benefits of trade while fighting fiercely against any attempts to expand the NAFTA-WTO model which had proved so damaging


Not surprisingly, the press coverage reflected the political importance of such a large, diverse swath of the congressional wing of the Democratic party launching a major trade agreement reform initiative - and one that implements what Pres. Obama committed to do on trade during his campaign. See this story or go here to see a whole collection of stories


And, the whole Dem base supports this approach as the way to move forward. (Letters of support at )


The White House is now working on a major Obama trade policy speech for either July or September (depending on who you ask.) This is the speech that was announced after the White House asserted political supervision last month over the USTR push to revive Bush's Panama and Colombia NAFTA expansions for quick votes. (Apparently some folks at the White recalled what happened the last time a new Democratic president took a leftover Bush trade agreement hated by his base and made it his own: Clinton pushed NAFTA instead of health care or striker replacement (substitute EFCA to bring it up to date). NAFTA passed, the party was frayed, the domestic priorities tanked and the Democrats lost the House in 1994 as labor household turnout plummeted.)


Hopefully the White House will make use of the TRADE Act and avoid the bitter divisiveness and political fallout that would result from attempts to pass the leftover Bush NAFTA expansion agreements with Panama, Colombia and Korea. 


The TRADE Act requires a review of existing trade pacts, including NAFTA, the WTO and other major pacts, and sets forth what must and must not be included in future trade pacts. It also provides for the renegotiation of existing trade agreements and describes the key elements of a new trade negotiating and approval mechanism to replace Fast Track - the undemocratic negotiating system that go us into WTO and NAFTA - that would enhance Congress' role in the formative aspects of agreements and promote future deals that could enjoy broad support among the American public. You'll find a two-page fact sheet summarizing the bill here: