Senators Deal Major Blows to Obama's Fast Track Plan, But the Fight Isn't Over
The chorus of voices denouncing the White House's plan to “fast track” the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is growing louder by the day. Over 550 public interest groups and digital rights organizations sent letters this week to Senate leaders opposing the bill which would severely limit Congress' role over trade pacts. Sen. Ron Wyden came out and said he isn't ready to support the legislation. Then in the biggest blow yet, Senate majority leader Harry Reid stated he is “against fast track,” and suggested he would not bring any legislation to the floor that would grant the White House greater trade powers, just a day after the president mentioned it as a priority in his State of the Union address.
Stopping “fast track” authority for the White House would mean that TPP would require Congressional hearings on all 29 of its chapters—including its provisions on copyright enforcement. US lawmakers would then be in the uncomfortable position of considering kinds of regulatory issues that contradict and restrict future reforms to US law.
In light of all of the opposition, it really does seem as though the chances of this bill passing with this Congress are diminishing. That is a direct a result of hundreds of thousands of individuals across the United States continuing to speak out and contact their representatives to oppose “fast track” for the TPP.
Still, it's too soon to say the fight is over. Reports say US Trade Rep Michael Froman has been meeting with Congress members every day to garner support for fast track. And negotiations over the final wording of the TPP—which has remained in a deadlock since fall—will proceed in a meeting in mid-February in Singapore.
Hollywood and Big Content interests are not afraid to play dirty. The fact that these policies are secretly negotiated into trade agreements in the first place is proof. They are purposefully co-opting the trade process to smuggle their wish list of heightened copyright policies through the back door, so that they can force all TPP countries to enact even more restrictive laws, and later point to TPP as an international norm when they lobby for copyright laws elsewhere. They have sunk a significant amount of resources into getting what they want in TPP, and they're not going to give up without a fight.
We're not going to give up either. So far, many Congress members have taken a stand for users' rights in a way that the US Trade Representative, who is supposed to represent all United States interests,simply hasn't. It's important to keep the pressure on Congress, and continue to do everything we can to stop Hollywood from passing secret regulations that threaten our Internet.