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June 13, 2015

"Fast Track" Hurdles and Development Concerns Remain‎ After House Trade Votes

A package of trade bills stalled today when the US House of Representatives defeated one portion of the package while voting in favor of another. Trade Adjustment Assistance, a program to assist US workers who lose their jobs because of trade agreements, failed by a vote of 302-126. This worker assistance is part of the Trade Act of 2015 which would give President Obama Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) to move international trade agreements through Congress without amendment. Congress must pass trade assistance within two remaining legislative days in order for TPA or "fast track" to be sent to President Obama's desk.

"Whether or not the package passes, Congress can amend harmful arbitration provisions that favor predatory actors over vulnerable people," said Eric LeCompte, executive director of the religious anti-poverty organization Jubilee USA Network.


The House Rules Committee rejected an amendment by Congressman Mark Pocan to prevent Congress from using Trade Promotion Authority to advance trade deals that contain Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanisms. These mechanisms allow companies to sue countries over disputes related to trade agreements. Predatory financial firms are known to use the tribunals to sue countries in economic distress to collect on debts purchased on the secondary market. In 2013, a Slovakian firm sued Greece, arguing that the country's debt restructuring violated the terms of its investment treaties with Slovakia and Cyprus. On May 22, the Senate defeated a similar amendment to the Senate TPA bill 60-39.

The Senate additionally failed to pass a "fast track" amendment from Senator Michael Bennett to "ensure that trade policies and agreements contribute to the reduction of poverty and the elimination of hunger."


"Congress must amend trade agreements to diminish global poverty," noted LeCompte.

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