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controversy over trade agreements

Take this opportunity to slow trade deals in their tracks

Log-rolling is a means by which legislators compress enough goodies into one bill that, despite the odors from various sections, it receives little debate and few amendments before the “up-or-down votes” the Globe editorial board seeks for two pending trade agreements (“Pacific, EU trade deals need up-or-down votes,” Jan. 19).

Fast-tracking commits legislators to a similar process on trade treaties but without any input on their substance. Fast-tracked trade treaties adopted over the past 40 years have altered life in the United States, from road safety to product labeling to environmental regulation to jobs — all with less debate than the current farm bill.

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These treaties confer substantive rights on corporations against governments that are enforced by tribunals from which the public and press are excluded. From their anonymous judgments, there is no appeal. We can have no idea the extent to which corporations have used these rights to affect government regulation.

Contrary to what the Globe suggests, log-rolled trade treaties don’t invite “members of Congress [to] vote their conscience on the merits.” Unlike a migratory bird protection treaty or an arms control pact, their merits aren’t clear. The pressure from the interests to ratify has proved irresistible.

Because treaties supersede domestic legislation, both current and future, the Constitution says that the president “shall have power, by and with advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two-thirds of the senators present concur.” This implies a process of solemn deliberation and thoughtful improvements that fast-tracking denies.

For the first time in 40 years, the Senate should commit itself to do its duty on the two trade treaties.

Peter D. Kinder

Cambridge

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