State Legislators Oppose Fast Track of Trade Bill

I issued the following Press Release on Monday, June 8,2015:


Secret trade negotiations threaten state sovereignty and policies promoting renewable energy and
state-based climate solutions, GMO labeling, pollinator protections

Several Vermont state legislators joined environmental leaders from legislatures across the nation
urging a vote against so-called “fast track” Trade Promotion Authority legislation now pending in
Congress. This controversial legislation would put into place for six years a speeded-up process for
approving any trade deals negotiated by current and future presidents, requiring a simple up or down vote without amendments.

Trade agreements that would be covered by fast track include the 12-nation Trans-Pacific
Partnership (TPP) encompassing 36 percent of global GDP – by far the biggest trade agreement the
U.S. has ever negotiated - as well as an agreement with the European Union, the Trans-Atlantic
Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). These trade deals go far beyond traditional trade
agreements that simply lowered tariffs, and would include sweeping provisions aimed at
“disciplining” local, state and federal policies viewed as “trade irritants”.

 Vermont legislators that signed on to the letter include Chittenden County Senator Ginny Lyons,
Representatives Steve Berry (Manchester), David Deen (Putney), Patsy French (Randolph), Helen
Head (South Burlington), Warren Kitzmiller (Montpelier), Amy Sheldon (Middlebury), Mary
Sullivan (Burlington), and Michael Yantachka (Charlotte).  The legislators’ letter (posted here: raises concerns both
about the extreme secrecy of these trade negotiations and likely provisions that threaten state
sovereignty and could chill future legislation by allowing corporations to challenge state laws and
seek multimillion-dollar damage payments, using a trade arbitration process that side-steps state and federal courts.  The Vermont House and Senate both passed a joint resolution, J.R.H.12 (Act R-230), during the 2013 session opposing the TPP and the fast track process.

 While virtually every investor group is well represented among the US Trade Representative's more than 600 ‘citizen’ advisors, almost no legislators are, yet these agreements can put at risk important state initiatives including clean energy policies and environmental regulations. Even under existing trade agreements including NAFTA, local and state policies such as bans on chemicals, environmental permitting decisions and tobacco regulations have faced challenges. Just this month [May 2015], the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled that U.S. country-of-origin food labels for meat violate trade rules, and the U.S. House Agriculture Committee has already voted to repeal the law. Legislators are concerned that GMO and toxic chemical labeling laws in the states could be threatened next under trade deals such as the TPP that go beyond WTO rules.

 The fast track bill passed the U.S. Senate on the eve of the Memorial Day recess and may be
considered by the U.S. House of Representatives in the next days or weeks. Vermont's Senators
Leahy and Sanders and Congressman Welch are on record opposing fast track for the TPP.  The
Representatives support the state’s federal delegation in rejecting fast track, so that each trade
agreement can be considered on its merits as it is negotiated, with sufficient opportunity for the
public as well as members of Congress to fully review complex text and assess any impacts on state
and national environmental laws.