Myth v. Fact on the 2015 Hatch-Ryan Fast Track Bill

Myth v. Fact on the 2015 Hatch-Ryan Fast Track Bill

Few Changes from 2014 Fast Track, No Fixes to Fast Track’s Fundamental Flaws

The Hatch-Ryan Fast Track bill would revive the Fast Track mechanism that was dead on arrival in the House in 2014 and that Congress has only authorized once in the last 21 years. A side-by-side comparison of the 2015 and 2014 bills by the Ways and Means Democratic staff shows how few words are different from the 2014 bill, which itself replicated the controversial 2002 Fast Track process. If this bill were enacted, whomever is president could unilaterally choose trade partners and launch negotiations for the next three to six years, and whether or not the negotiating objectives in the bill were met could sign and enter into agreements before Congress approves their contents and then be guaranteed House and Senate votes in 90 days with no amendments and limited debate.

Despite this, the 2015 bill’s supporters claim it has “important modifications and improvements” that “boost oversight by Congress, enhance consultations and increase accountability by the Obama administration.” A review of the bill language shows that this is not true.

  • The “new” provisions on “accountability” impose unsurmountable obstacles for even the Ways & Means or Finance committees to remove an agreement from Fast Track if it fails to meet Congress’ goals, while the bill word-for-word replicates the equally unusable mechanism in the 2002 Fast Track and 2014 bill for any member of Congress to do so.
  • The “new” provisions on “transparency” simply restate current practice or instruct the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to develop new procedures without requiring new access to congressional staff or the public.
  • The bill even eliminates congressional oversight requirements with respect to World Trade Organization negotiations that were included in the 2014 bill.