Fast Track to where? Congress must not pass this legislation


Published October 8, 2001

A major critique of the government revolves around the speed with which it deals with issues. The process of passing legislation involves several levels of the government passing through various committees, houses of Congress and the president. This process successfully delays the process of legislation, creating a long wait period between the inception of an idea and its actual implementation. This delay is seen by some as a distraction to the government, slowing the legislative process to a crawl for all but the most important bills.

A program that has been viewed as a fix for this bureaucratic process is Fast Track a piece of legislation that gives the president the ability to negotiate and sign international trade agreements without the input of Congress. Fast Track was a response to growing international trade, which was seen by many as a reason for giving the president a mandate to bypass normal bureaucratic processes. By being able to negotiate directly with foreign leaders, Fast Track allows trade agreements to be made without the haggling in Congress. This may be effective in hastening the process, but there is a substantial negative side to the Fast Track program.

In 1993, former president Bill Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement using the mandate of Fast Track. Even though NAFTA faced huge opposition not only by Congress, but also by citizens in the U.S., Clinton was able to push NAFTA because he essentially did not have to answer to anyone. After NAFTA was signed by Clinton, Congress could only vote yes or no, instead of being able to make line-by-line changes to the agreement.

In other words, Clinton could decide on the terms of NAFTA and then offer a final draft to Congress, no questions asked. The problem was that opposition to NAFTA was seen as anti-globalization a "radical" idea that most representatives did not want to openly subscribe to. NAFTA passed through Congress even though there were substantial criticisms of the trade agreement.

The problem with Fast Track is that bureaucratic red tape was set up to prevent exactly what happened with NAFTA. The legislative process was set up to make sure that no one person had the final word on legislation. Fast Track destroys this defense mechanism, allowing the president absolute control in the negotiation of trade treaties that have profound impacts on the national economy. Congress is left entirely out of the process any opposition to the final treaty is used politically to attack individual Congressmen as being opposed to advancement.

Globalization itself is not the problem it is the terms of globalization that are disconcerting. By deleting the legislative process, Fast Track allows one man to set the terms for millions.