Inclement weather may have slowed some these past two weeks, but not Rick McGahey. The director of the Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management Program braved the frigid temperatures and near-foot of snow last Tuesday to discuss recent U.S. policy proposals on MSNBC’s The Cycle.
The topic? The renewal and passage of trade agreements in Congress. First, a bit of background: The legislature is set to vote on whether to renew a “Fast Track Trade Authority” agreement that expired in 2007. The deal allows Congress to set the parameters for trade deals. To “fast track” the procedure means that Congress will have the power to pass trade agreements on an up or down vote without adding additional amendments—two aspects that usually slow the procedure down. President Obama would then like the legislature to use this power to pass three pending free trade agreements, including a trans-pacific partnership between 12 nations (Australia, Japan, Canada, and Singapore among them).
From where does the controversy stem? Whether the move will help limit income inequality is a pressing concern. “Proponents of these deals always massively overstate the benefits of them,” McGahey explained on The Cycle. “It’s also said that we’re in either a world of free trade or protection, but those are economists’ abstractions in a textbook.” In reality, some sectors will win while some will lose, he surmised.
What’s the bottom line? These trade agreements don’t exactly benefit the general populace. As McGahey describes, the industries they really protect are financial institutions, pharmaceutical companies, and Internet providers.