Slow Track

U.S. government neglect of trade concerns and, in some cases, outright harm through the regulatory process, already have destroyed much of the manufacturing base that once made the Ohio Valley prosperous.

So when President Barack Obama seeks authority to pursue international trade agreements he claims will benefit American workers, the local reaction may be, “Why bother now?”

Still, trade agreements that allow U.S. businesses to compete internationally on a level playing field are important, providing they are enforced.

But U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, is right to oppose an Obama administration request for authority to “fast-track” trade agreements with other countries.

Obama wants the power to conclude such agreements – treaties requiring approval by the Senate – on a fast-track basis that would, in effect give the White House the final say over provisions of such pacts. Obama’s proposal is that once his administration has concluded a trade agreement, the Senate would be able only to approve or reject it – but not to amend the measure.

Other presidents have sought such authority. At times, it appears to make sense.

But this administration has proven itself to be among the most power-hungry in history. In any number of situations ranging from health care to the environment, the Obama White House has managed to transfer power from Congress to the executive branch.

Brown opposes the fast-track proposal. He notes trade negotiations often take place behind closed doors and sometimes include provisions presidents like for diplomatic reasons, but that are not good for American workers. So, Brown insists, Congress should retain the power to amend trade pacts.

He is right. Congress should not give Obama the fast-track authority he seeks.