Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) have just reintroduced Fast Track legislation, which would allow the passage of international trade bills to be rushed through Congress without discussion or amendments. To defend our democracy, we must defeat Fast Track.

Fast Track does not have a long history, but it has a profoundly undemocratic one. When first introduced during the Nixon administration, trade bills focused on tariffs and duties. Now trade bills are written behind closed doors, are thousands of pages long and focus on protecting investor rights.

In a recent meeting I had with Rep. Danny Davis, I thanked him for signing a “Dear Colleague” letter stating his opposition to Fast Track last year. I urged him to stand firm against the pressure that President Obama is putting on Congressional Democrats now. Rep. Davis replied that he is “pretty sure” he will vote against Fast Track. Pressure him now and keep it up. Trans-national corporations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable want Fast Track.

In March, the Congressional Progressive Caucus published “Principles for Trade: A Model for Global Progress.” These principles offer a significant antidote to the toxic secrecy undertaken by the Obama administration in its creation of three major trade deals [These are the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP); the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA), which is also known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP); and the Trade In Services Agreement (TISA)].

The basic elements of the Principles for Trade are: Protect Congress’ Authority to Set Trade Policy; Restore Balanced Trade; Put Workers First; Stop Currency Manipulation; Expand Buy American Procurement Practices; Protect the Environment for Future Generations; Prioritize Consumers Above Profits; Protect Nationhood Rights; Secure Affordable Access to Essential Medicines and Services; Respect Human Rights; and Provide a Safety Net for Vulnerable Workers.

There are three Illinois members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus: representatives Jan Schakowsky, Danny K. Davis and Luis Gutierrez. Davis serves all of Oak Park and most of River Forest. Rep. Gutierrez serves the NW corner of River Forest. They all deserve our appreciation for a far more democratic approach to international trade than the neo-liberal administration favors.

During that meeting I had with Rep. Davis, he suggested that those of us who met with him need to do more public outreach. In response, I suggested that he write an op-ed and submit it to the Chicago Tribune or the Chicago Sun Times promoting the Principles for Trade.

Let me ask the constituents of representatives Davis and Gutierrez to contact them and urge them to publicly promote these Principles for Trade. Rep. Davis’ office in D.C. is 202-225-5006 and in Chicago it’s 773-533-7520. Rep. Gutierrez can be reached in D.C. at 202-225-8203 and in Chicago at 773-342-0774. If you call D.C., ask to speak to the aide who works on international trade issues. If you call the Chicago office, ask to speak to his policy aide.

Fair trade, not free trade. 

Tom Broderick is co-chair, Greater Oak Park chapter, of the Chicago Democratic Socialists of America.

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