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TPP Overshadows Congress, and Even U.S.
Despite the growing clout of limited-government advocates in Congress, there is little they—or others like Warren and Wyden—could do to stop the TPP. Congress essentially gave up its constitutional authority to regulate commerce with foreign nations in 1974 with the introduction of “fast-track” authority. This privileges the president to flip the bill-making process on its head: The president introduces an international agreement that Congress votes on, but can neither filibuster nor amend. Although fast-track expired in 2007, the Obama Administration has been pushing for a renewal, specifically for the TPP.
Even more alarming, the agreement would shift power from the federal government to international authority.
The TPP allows for an “investor-state” system, which in principle is good for liberalizing economies. “The idea of allowing foreign investment in and allowing domestic investors abroad is a great one. We should let investments go wherever investors want them to,” says Lester. However, he cautions that “the problem is, a lot of [TPP] rules are very vague. They'll say, for example, the government has to provide foreign investors with fair and equitable treatment. Nobody knows what that means.”
These loosely worded rules would make the U.S. vulnerable to foreign companies “raiding the U.S. Treasury” through extrajudicial tribunals, says Wallach. For example, a Vietnamese corporation would have the ability to take the U.S. government to the international quasi-court with the allegation that America's domestic labor laws cut into their expected future profits.
If the U.S. government were actually interested in promoting free trade, it could entirely sidestep relinquishing legislative power to a hodgepodge web of nations. It could simply agree to lower tariffs in exchange for the same treatment. But instead, we are facing a deal that would undermining the democratic process entirely, disenfranchising the voting public to whom our government is accountable.