Trans-Pacific Partnership Moves Closer as ‘Fast Track’ Advances
The Senate Finance Committee has voted to give President Barack Obama ‘fast track’ trade promotion authority, setting the stage for a vote on the Senate floor and moving the White House another step toward being able to close the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact in coming months.
Last week, leaders on the Senate Finance Committee—Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon)—and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R- Wisconsin), unveiled legislation that would grant the President “Trade Promotion Authority” (TPA) to finalize pending trade deals. Under TPA, the administration would be required to consult with Congress to set negotiating objectives and priorities and require Congress to hold a straight up-or-down vote once agreements are finalized.
The White House is currently negotiating the TPP agreement with 11 other Pacific Rim countries and has touted the deal as a key part of the Obama Administration’s so-called “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific region.
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Lawmakers advocating for the TPP say the agreement could serve as a vital counterbalance to China’s growing influence in the region.
Interviewed Monday on WRJN radio in Janesville, Wisconsin, Ryan said that the TPP, supported by TPA in Congress, “will serve as a counterweight against China.” China, he said, “is trying to write the rules of the global economy to try and meet China’s demands, not ours, so it’s really kind of a race for who writes the rules for the global economy: the U.S. and our allies or China.”
‘Fast track’ authority, he added, “allows lawmakers to have an up-or-down vote on trade deals but without amendments or filibusters in the Senate—a condition viewed as crucial to securing buy-in from other countries.” He noted that the U.S.’s exclusion from previous trade deals in the region while China has played an active role. “There have been 48 trade agreements put in place in Asia since the year 2000,” he said. “The U.S. has been a party to two of them.” As a result, “our share of exports over there has gone down 42 percent. So if you aren’t getting these agreements for your country, you’re losing and other countries are getting your market share,” he said.
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