The Democratic Socialists of America sent me an e-News email that I think is important enough to share.  I will quote the first three paragraphs, and then share why I think it is important.

There has been an incredibly important trade bill introduced–

It’s called the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment (TRADE) Act. Introduced in Congress on June 4,  its prime sponsors are Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine). There are currently 58 co-sponsors of the bill in the House and four in the Senate. The bill’s numbers are HR 6180 and S 3083. Write them down and don’t lose them! Put them up on your refrigerator with a magnet, on your bulletin board, under your coffee cup or in your computer—wherever you put important political information that you will need again. Because this bill is a keeper.

The act would require the government to review its trade agreements, and it provides a process for renegotiating them, too. The bill also outlines principles that should be used in renegotiating those trade agreements–something that  is consistent with the precepts of DSA’s   Renegotiate NAFTA Project and which was described in the most recent issue of Democratic Left.
The bill is vigorously supported by major unions, environmental and other fair trade organizations. Said Bruce Raynor, President of UNITE HERE, “This bill breaks new ground on the enforcement of labor rights, environmental protection, food and product safety, procurement, safeguards against surges of imports, trade remedies against unfair trade practices and the ability for countries to regulate foreign investment.”
This was sent from Frank Llewellyn, National Director of the DSA, and the rest can be found here-
Why is this important?
In 1974, Richard Nixon introduced the concept of a fast track on trade, a procedure that would require Congress to vote on a trade agreement and all its changes it imposes on U.S. law, no amendments permitted, within 60 to 90 days of the president’s submission of the agreement and its legislation.  Debate on the bill is limited to 24 hours.  Trade bills are hundreds of pages, filled with clauses, subclauses, etc., ad nauseum, full of specialized trade terminology, and in 60 to 90 days it is barely even possible, with a full staff and advisors, to read all of it–even most of it.  Nixon proposed a council of private sector trade advisory groups to facilitate the process–hardly a disinterested group.  How does this affect procedures?  Let’s take the example of the Uruguay Round negotiations of the GATT, which created the WTO.
“During the . . . Uruguay Round negotiations, the advisory committees were composed of over eight hundred business executives and consultants (with limited labor representation), five representatives from the few environmental groups that were supportive or neutral on NAFTA, and no consumer rights or health representatives . . . [and] meetings of the advisory groups are closed to the public, with representatives required to obtain a security clearance from the government after a background check” (Nader, “GATT, NAFTA, and the Subversion of the Democratic Process,” from Mander and Goldsmith’s “The Case Against the Global Economy” p. 101).
Once trade agreements pass, attempts to figure out what, exactly, was passed face at least a few obstacles.  First, when George H.W. Bush promoted the NAFTA bill, he spoke positively, but the text was only made available to the American people in an unofficial version a month after his public appearance.  The 752 page official version was made available at a price of $41, and only after Bush Sr. left office in ’93.  Second, only those with an expansive knowledge of trade terminology can decipher exactly what the implications of the bill will be.  Third, in many countries (who are expected to pass these bills into their own legislation), the GATT text never became available, or became translated months after its passing.
A provision of the WTO rules, passed by the American government, is that WTO rules and restrictions are now fully enforcible, and governments must conform all laws, present and future, to the WTO.  Trade agreements, in other words, subvert even the constitution, and every law we have.  Combined with the fast track, trade rules are something to be debated more rigorously, considered more thoughtfully, and regulated more harshly than any other potential laws.  Beyond this, the fast track needs to be slowed down.
In the mean time, the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment (TRADE) Act is monumentally important, and in light of the history of International Capital’s consolidation of power and subversion of democracy, I urge anyone who reads this to talk to their congressmen and congresswomen, and forward the news to support this act to anyone concerned for the future.
In solidarity,
The Practical Utopian