Press Release: How to Build a New U.S. Trade Consensus

‘The Rise and Fall of Fast Track Trade Authority’ Provides an Unparalleled Historical Review of Trade Authority and the Steps to Move Towards a New Trade Consensus


Contact: Maggie Henderson, (202) 454-5108

WASHINGTON, D.C. –An updated book released today by Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch examines how the process of designing U.S. trade pacts has changed from 1789 to the present. The revised version of “The Rise and Fall of Fast Track Trade Authority” by Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, concludes that Fast Track is an outdated model and counterproductive to the creation of good trade pacts and offers a new system of delegation.

“This revised book outlines the steady erosion on Congress’ trade authority after 40 years of Fast Track and details why the current climate for U.S. trade-agreement negotiation and approval is ripe for change,” said Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch and author of the book. “The material in this book can contribute to a serious discussion of how trade authority should be constructed.”

The book explores how the process of designing U.S. trade agreements has changed from 1789 to the present, examining five different regimes of trade-policy formation, the most recent culminating with the Obama administration’s continued use of Fast Track despite its expiration in 2007 and many Washington policymakers calling for a new delegation mechanism.

Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress is responsible for crafting trade policy. Yet, over the last few decades, presidents have increasingly grabbed that power through Fast Track, which allows the executive branch to pick negotiating partners, determine trade pacts’ contents, and even sign the deals – all before Congress gets a vote. The book also notes that the trade agreements facilitated by Fast Track delve deeply into wide swaths of domestic policy unrelated to trade, such as procurement and immigration, financial and energy regulation, patent and copyright law, and food and product safety. The book provides an unprecedented documentation of the arguments that motivated both opponents and proponents of the expansion of executive power over trade agreements.

The book notes that growing numbers of voters and policymakers – including long time “free-trade” supporter and chairman of the House Oversight Committee Rep. Darrell Issue (R-Calif.) – have called for more Congressional oversight in negotiating U.S. trade agreements.

“Now is the time to have a debate about a new trade consensus and this book provides a starting point,” said Wallach. “We look forward to a trade agreement negotiating and approval process that can best secure prosperity for the greatest number of Americans, while preserving the vital tenets of American democracy and our constitutional checks and balances in the era of globalization.”

The book was released today at an event held at Busboys and Poets in Washington, DC. A copy of the book is also available in a variety of easily readable formats accessible at FastTrackHistory.Org.

Praise for the 2008-2009 edition of “The Rise and Fall of Fast Track Trade Authority”:

Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio and congressional trade-policy leader
“If you wonder why trade policy over the past several years has reflected such narrow interests, look no further than the imbalanced trade policymaking process that is Fast Track. There is no other legislative mechanism with such extraordinary powers. Read this informed and engaging account of Fast Track’s history and take action.”

Representative Mike Michaud, Democrat of Maine and Co-founder of House Trade Working Group
“Most people now in Congress weren't elected when President Nixon designed Fast Track to grab Congress' exclusive constitutional authority over U.S. trade policy. President Obama discussed the need to replace Fast Track with a process that ensures a greater role for Congress. This book provides the lessons of 233 years of American trade authority history to inform Congress's efforts to create just such a new trade negotiating mechanism.”

Alfred E. Eckes, Ohio Eminent Research Professor in Contemporary History at Ohio University, author of "Opening America's Market: U.S. Foreign Trade Policy Since 1776," and former Reagan-appointed Chairman and Commissioner, U.S. International Trade Commission
"Candidates for federal office should be required to read and address the critical issues raised in this stimulating book. Wallach and Tucker make a persuasive case that the fast-track trade negotiating process produces agreements weighted to the interests of corporate giants and harmful to democratic governance and public safety. Their argument that a more democratic trade policy process is both possible and desirable merits the attention of public officials and thoughtful citizens everywhere."

About the author:

Lori Wallach is GTW's director and founder, and coauthored "Whose Trade Organization? A Comprehensive Guide to the WTO", published by The New Press in 2004. One of the most widely cited trade and globalization policy experts, Wallach has testified before Congress, federal agencies, and foreign legislatures. She graduated from Wellesley College and Harvard Law School.