The U.S. Senate has paved the way for the passage of Fast Track legislation, to give the White House and the U.S. Trade Representative almost unilateral power to negotiate and finalize secret anti-user trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Yesterday a “cloture” vote was held—this was a vote to end debate on Fast Track and break any possibility for a filibuster, and it passed by the minimum votes needed—60 to 37. Today, the Senate voted to pass the legislation itself. TPP proponents only needed 51 votes, a simple majority, to actually pass the bill, and they got it in a 60 to 38 vote. Following months and months of campaigning, Congress has ultimately caved to corporate demands to hand away its own constitutional mandate over trade, and the President is expected to the sign the bill into law as early as tonight or later this week.
Despite this defeat, our fight against undemocratic, corporate-driven trade agreements should not be counted as a failure.
This campaign has reaffirmed the power of Internet users to make lawmakers more accountable to the people. We effectively threw a wrench into the mechanics of Washington, proven yesterday by TPP supporters’ razor thin victory in the Senate cloture vote, not to mention the series of stops and starts that delayed the passage of this bill for so many months. We put the White House on the defensive like never before, as President Obama scrambled to win enough support for his trade agenda to pass the bill. All of our calls, emails, tweets, and visits to our lawmakers made a big difference.
Even more stunning is how we have managed to delay the official TPP talks. During the recent kerfuffle over Fast Track, negotiations over TPP have effectively been stalled. The United States’ trading partners were not willing to continue talks and concede to worse digital regulations as long as it seemed that the U.S. Congress had the opportunity to second-guess the agreed language later. Now that Fast Track will be passed, TPP negotiations will likely resume in the coming weeks.
That means that we too must keep on fighting on. We’ll be laser-focused on building more momentum to defeat the TPP, as well as the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), which also contain harmful digital regulations. There’s one silver lining to the Fast Track legislation, which is that it will force the White House to release the final trade texts for 60 days before Congress votes to ratify the agreements. Those two months will be critical to convince our lawmakers not to ratify the TPP. At that point, we’ll have the official text to analyze and dissect, so we can better understand how the agreement will affect the Internet and demand that Congress reject the deal based on specific threats to users and innovators.
When the veil of secrecy is finally lifted, the President, the U.S. Trade Representative, and all other TPP proponents will no longer have anything to hide behind as they make sweeping claims about the deal’s benefit to the “free and open Internet.” We will then be able to show that international agreements negotiated in secret only lead to rotten digital policies.