2002 Scorecard Vote
As trade has become an increasingly vital component of 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 incorporate environmental concerns in their decisions and have, in some cases, rejected environmental and public health protections as barriers to trade.
This issue came to a head during the House debate over "Fast Track" trade legislation. Fast Track authority allows the President to negotiate trade agreements with expedited procedures for approval or disapproval by Congress. Congress agrees to consider the trade agreements under a procedure with mandatory deadlines, no amendments, limited debate, and an up-or-down vote. In exchange, Congress is permitted to set negotiating objectives, conditions for approving agreements, and guidelines for any changes to domestic law.
Fast Track authority lapsed in 1994. The environmental community supports a consensus-based Fast Track authority that would encourage environmental protection and guard against weakening environmental standards while still promoting economic growth. Such was not the case with the Trade Act of 2002 (H.R. 3009), which was opposed by conservationists for failing to address key environmental provisions in a meaningful way and for failing to encourage real environmental progress and cooperation with trading partners. During debate of the bill, Senator John Kerry (D-MA) proposed an amendment that would have prevented future trade agreements from including provisions identical to Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). These provisions grant foreign corporations broad powers to sue U.S. taxpayers for damages if U.S. environmental, health or land protection laws interfere with the corporations' businesses. However the Kerry amendment failed to pass by a vote of 55-41 on May 21, 2002. The bill passed the Senate, and in August emerged from conference with its House counterpart.
On August 1, 2002, the Senate adopted the H.R. 3009 conference report by a 64-34 vote (Senate roll call vote 207). NO is the pro-environment vote. President Bush signed the conference report, already approved by the House, the following day.