Trade Promotion Authority Moves One Step Closer to Reality
Senior U.S. lawmakers have reportedly reached a deal on a trade promotion authority bill, moving the White House a step closer to clinching the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), one of the biggest free-trade deals in history.
The trade promotion authority (TPA)—or so-called ‘fast track’—mechanism would make it easier for the President to negotiate trade pacts, limiting Congress to only ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ votes on proposed trade pacts such as the TPP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act and the retroactive reauthorization of the Generalized System of Preferences.
The legislation could be ready for full Senate consideration next week, according to Republican Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch.
Reaction to the TPA legislation was swift with several major U.S. industry groups voicing their desire to see fast-track authority become a reality.
The National Retail Federation registered its support for the legislation calling on Congress to “renew its commitment to international trade by approving legislation that would reauthorize Trade Promotion Authority,” saying such authority “is critical” to advancing free-trade agreements.
“It is vitally important that Congress support international trade by tearing down barriers to markets and reducing tariffs,” says NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. “Without TPA legislation guaranteeing expedited Congressional approval, the Transpacific Partnership and two other trade agreements—and the enormous economic benefits of digital trade—could be in jeopardy. If the U.S. doesn’t act aggressively to set international digital trade rules, other governments will.”
The Telecommunications Industry Association issued a statement that read, “Modernizing and renewing Trade Promotion Authority is particularly important for maintaining our country’s international leadership in the highly competitive information and communications industry. The U.S. has an ambitious trade agenda, and swift passage of TPA renewal is important to ensuring successful outcomes in ongoing trade negotiations.”
The Software & Information Industry Association issued a statement saying, “If the U.S. doesn’t act aggressively to set international digital trade rules, other governments will. With enactment of this legislation, it will be the official U.S. trade negotiating position that governments must refrain from measures that impede digital trade, restrict cross-border data flows, or require local storage or processing of data.”
OBAMA WANTS FAST TRACK FOR INTERNATIONAL TRADE DEALS; UNIONS AND PROMINENT DEMOCRAT LEGISLATORS DON’T
Republican and general business support for TPA and the proposed transpacific trade agreement, both touted by the Obama Administration, has put the White House at odds with several powerful Democratic legislators and labor unions, which are hard at work on Capitol Hill lobbying against the fast-track legislation and the trade pact.
Despite Hatch’s optimism that the legislation will become a reality, passing it hinges on moving TPA in tandem with a bill to extend support for workers whose jobs could be impacted by the upswing in imports that would result from agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Speaking at a Bloomberg Conference, Sander Levin, top Democrat on the House of Representatives committee responsible for trade, said, “You bring up TPA in the House today, the best you would have is a handful of Democrats.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), says he opposes fast track and that “it’s not fair to rush such an important issue.” Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown agrees: “You can’t fast track fast track – that’s a complete abdication of our responsibilities,” he said.
Brown is one of several senators who want the TPP and any like agreement to include rules that stop trading partners such as Japan and China from manipulating their currencies.
Some of the nation’s largest labor unions including the Teamsters, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Communications Workers of America and National Nurses United are actively campaigning against both the TPA and the TPP. Some have said they will launch an advertising campaign on the Internet over the next week to pressure senators and members of Congress to oppose fast track, adding that the campaign might be expanded to TV, radio and newspapers.