Earthjustice Statement on Fast Track (Trade Promotion Authority)

Denounces "fast track" trade authority.


Brian Smith, Press Secretary, 415-627-6700

Environmental leaders and members of Congress held a press conference today in Washington, DC to denounce fast track trade negotiation legislation (H.R. 3005) introduced by Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) and scheduled for a vote on Thursday 12/6/01. In particular, speakers discussed the threats that the Thomas bill poses to environmental laws and regulations at home and abroad.

Speakers at the event included: Members of Congress including Reps. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), George Miller (D-Calif.), David Bonior (D-Mich.), Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), and others.

CEOs and representatives from Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, and U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

Here is the text of the statement by Earthjustice.


My name is Marty Hayden. I am the legislative director for Earthjustice, a national non-profit environmental law firm. We are here today because we believe that trade promotion (fast track) authority is a real threat to American democratic and environmental values. Fast Track failed last time, and Congress should reject it again. You can dress a pig in a tutu, but that doesn’t make it a ballerina.

Congressman Bob Matsui, a proponent of free trade, has decided not to support H.R. 3005, authorizing trade promotion authority. He told the National Journal this week that the next round of World Trade Organization negotiations is about “sovereignty and our ability to legislate.”

That’s what many Americans are concerned about. They are worried that the executive branch may be willing to trade away Congressional duties to legislate on issues of labor, health, and environmental protections. For Congress to abdicate these duties would be foolish and shortsighted.

How does fast track undermine Congress or even state legislatures? By giving the administration free reign to create a set of trade rules that can trump environmental, health, and labor protections. Let me give just one example.

When the state of California realized the gasoline additive MTBE was poisoning its drinking water, Governor Gray Davis declared his intention to outlaw the additive by 2002. Methanex, a Canadian company that makes a component of MTBE, has since sued the state of California under NAFTA’s investor protection rule, known as Chapter 11. Unbelievably, under NAFTA, Methanex may actually win. To protect California’s drinking water the U.S. Government would be required to pay $1 billion to Methanex. I don’t know about you, but where I grew up, this is called extortion.

The New York Times recently called Chapter 11 “NAFTA’s Dirty Little Secret.” It’s a bad piece of trade law that is being now being pushed in the WTO Doha Round and the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas, which will expand NAFTA throughout the Western Hemisphere.

Congress needs to take responsibility for preventing trade law disasters like Chapter 11. These provisions should be killed, not expanded. And the only way to do that is to keep an eye on the process. A vote for fast track will blindfold Congress and perhaps forever undermine its ability to protect the American people through enacting and enforcing strong health, labor, and environmental protections.

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Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people's health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.