Trade Promotion Authority Legislation Alive Despite Setbacks
With apologies to Mark Twain, it would appear that yesterday’s reports of Trade Promotion Authority’s demise were greatly exaggerated.
The controversial ‘fast-track’ legislation flew off the rails yesterday and seemed doomed forever when all but one Senate Democrat voted to table the legislation through a filibuster, a procedure which Senate supporters fell seven votes shy of overcoming, as 60 votes were required.
Earlier today, however, Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle announced that they had struck a bipartisan agreement to move forward with an amended version of the legislation.
While Democratic senators, led by Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, lost their bid to have four trade-related bills combined into a single measure, they did secure the chance to have votes related to all four bills. “Democrats want a path forward on all four,” says Reid, a vocal opponent of both Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) and free trade.
According to sources, the new schedule will have the Senate vote on a new, combined bill that aims to maintain trade preferences for African nations and stiffen U.S. Customs’ enforcement powers. The Senate will then deal with another bill that combines both ‘fast track’ negotiating powers for the President and training and financial assistance for workers displaced by free trade.
That latter set of bills—and in particular the issue of ‘fast track’ authority—is considered by supporters as the critical package. Democrats, however, are insisting that the first set of bills get a quick vote, as the Customs-enforcement legislation contains a provision directing the administration to take stiffer steps to confront countries accused of manipulating their currencies to gain an unfair advantage in global markets.
CURRENCY MANIPULATION REQUIREMENTS OPPOSED BY OBAMA
Keeping currency manipulation language in the secondary bill rather than in the main fast-track bill is key for the Administration’s efforts to renew TPA, since it keeps the renewal process moving forward.
Under TPA, Congress sets the priority objectives for the Administration in trade negotiations and is granted transparency, oversight and accountability. In return, ‘fast track’ requires Congress to take a straight up-or-down vote on the agreements once they have been negotiated and fully vetted.
Adding the issue of currency manipulation into the TPA legislation is a thorn in the side of the White House’s trade policy, as the President has said it could kill any Trans Pacific Partnership deal the Administration is negotiating with Asian countries.