TPA To Be Presented to Congress

Written by Sandy Williams

U.S. senators are hoping to present a bipartisan trade promotion authority (TPA) bill to Congress this afternoon (April 16) that will “fast track” trade agreements.

The TPA defines U.S. negotiating objectives and priorities for trade agreements and establishes consultation and notification requirements for the President to follow. A trade agreement would then be presented by the President to Congress for an up or down vote, without amendment.

Republican Senators Orrin Hatch, Senate Finance Committee Chairman, and Paul Ryan, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman, have been working to reach consensus with Democrats on wording. A deal was reached with Democrat Sen. Ron Wyden to attach the TPA to a bill to extend support for workers hurt by foreign trade (Trade Adjustment Assistance program (TAA).

The push to approve TPA comes just a few months before negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact (TPP) are expected to be concluded. Supporters of TPA say it will encourage favorable trade negotiations.

“That up-or-down vote is the key,” said Sen. John Thune (D-SD), “That’s what gives our trading partners the confidence to put their best offers on the table, which allows for a successful conclusion of negotiations.”

Opponents, including union workers, worry that the TPA will lower wages and send production overseas, while supporters from business groups view it as a conduit to increasing exports and creating new jobs.

“You can’t fast track fast track – that’s a complete abdication of our responsibilities,” said Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown. Brown, along with several other senators, wants any new trade agreements to include rules to stop currency manipulation.

Passage of the “fast track” TPA may prove to be a difficult fight.

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