House Roll Call No. 481
107th Congress, 1st Session
Passed: 215-214 (see complete tally)
As trade has become an increasingly significant component in the global economy, important policy decisions on such issues as marine species conservation and sustainable forestry practices are increasingly being made in the context of international trade agreements and institutions. These bodies often fail to acknowledge environmental concerns and have, in some cases, rejected laws to protect the environment and the public's health as barriers to trade. As a result, conservationists have pushed for forward-thinking trade agreements that encourage environmental protection and guard against the weakening of environmental standards while still promoting economic growth.
One potentially useful tool for securing such agreements is fast-track trade negotiating authority. Under this procedure, Congress can set goals and objectives for the President to achieve in trade negotiations. In exchange, Congress agrees to an expedited procedure for approving the resulting trade agreement that does not allow amendments, limits debate, and calls for a single "up-or-down" vote on an agreement.
Presidential fast-track authority expired in 1994 and has not been renewed since. The environmental community has urged Congress and the administration to agree on fast track legislation that would ensure that trade agreements support, and do not erode, environmental safeguards. However, H.R. 3005, the fast-track authority bill introduced in 2001 by Representative Bill Thomas (R-CA) did not provide sufficient assurances to Congress that the administration would negotiate trade agreements that meet objectives designed to safeguard the environment. Furthermore, the bill did not adequately protect environmental and public health laws from lawsuits by foreign investors or from "regulatory takings" claims by foreign companies.
On Thursday, December 6, 2001, the House passed H.R. 3005 by a vote of 215-214 (House roll call vote 481). NO is the pro-environment vote. At press time, the Senate had not yet debated a fast track bill.
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