by Matt Stoller, Mon May 21, 2007 at 10:42:18 AM EDT
This is from Inside Trade and I got it from Lexis, so I can't provide a link. But I'm beginning to think that the 'deal' announced on trade actually was just a press conference and a Rorschach Test mashup. Here's what I mean.
Lawyers for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative are exploring ways to make the new free trade agreement template "legally binding" without reopening the Peru and Colombia free trade agreements, according to House Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Jim McCrery (R-LA).
He acknowledged that this would require convincing Democrats such as Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman Sander Levin (D-MI), who last week said the new template announced May 10 requires the reopening of already signed FTAs.
What was announced was an agreement to move forward on trade based on specific principles, and Sander Levin was a key figure bringing credibility from labor. There was no legislative language because there was no legislation or new trade deals to vote on. All this 'deal' consisted of was a set of principles around which negotiations would happen. Apparently Sander Levin thought that this meant trade deals before Congress would be reopened, while business lobbyists and the Bush administration did not. Each side saw what they wanted to see in the announcement, and now it appears that this disagreement wasn't resolved in the 'deal'. So what exactly was this except for a press conference?
I'm not sure, but Rangel is really mad.
"I think there's a lot of misunderstanding with the agreement," House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, a New York Democrat, told PBS' Nightly Business Report. "I cannot see how anybody would be upset in the Democratic Party, except for one thing: they were not included when we had the press conference."
Well since the only thing that proponents really seemed to have in common was this press conference, I suppose that his perspective makes sense. Or maybe this was his first bad day since.
I will say that Rangel would have a lot more credibility if he had actually managed to get the minimum wage increase through that the Democratic leadership promised. That is a popular and obvious piece of legislation, as well as a campaign promise that Bush promised he'd sign. The only thing holding it up is wrangling from Rangel, Baucus and Senate Republicans, who will crumple if forced to filibuster. The minimum wage hike will happen, I'm sure, but it's clear that his priorities are out of whack since he's not actually expending enough effort to make it happen. He's too busy cutting bipartisan trade deals that don't actually seem to be anything but press conferences.