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Abstract: In the United States, the President has the Constitutional authority to negotiate international trade agreements. But the Congress has the ultimate authority over trade. This arrangement blunts the negotiating power of the United States in trade talks, because other countries know that any commitments made at the table could be altered or rejected by Congress. Therefore, from 1974 to 1993, Congress granted the president fast track authority by committing to an expeditious yes-or-no vote on trade implementing legislation with no amendments or changes, in return for regular consultations and timely notification on the part of the Administration. However, beginning in the early 1990s, fast track became the subject of fierce political debate and a focal point for concerns about global trade liberalization. The case was revised in 2004 and 2005.
Learning Objective: The case asks students to consider: why has fast track become so contentious? Should provisions on core labor standards and environmental standards be included in trade agreements? Can the United States pursue trade agreements without fast track?