Administration continues to push Congress for TPA bill

By Derrick Cain

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, July 18, 2013 - The administration is continuing to push for creation of legislation dealing with Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), freshly-minted United States Trade Representative Michael Froman told the House Ways and Means Committee in a hearing today.

“TPA is a critical tool,” Froman said. “USTR has begun to engage in the process your leadership has undertaken.”

Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., told lawmakers he hopes to move a bipartisan TPA bill as soon as possible.

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“TPA is essential so that we in Congress can outline our priorities for you, establish how you consult with us, and create the mechanism for considering implementing legislation,” Camp told Froman. “It is no overstatement to say that the success of your work at the negotiating table absolutely depends on passing TPA, and we simply will not be able to enjoy the benefits of what we negotiate unless we have it.”

TPA, or fast track promotion authority, gives the president authority to negotiate trade agreements for up-or-down congressional votes, without amendment or filibuster. TPA was reestablished by the Trade Act of 2002, but expired in July of 2007. Several congressional attempts to revive TPA have been unsuccessful.

In his prepared statement, Froman touted the recent completion of the first round of the Transatlantic Trade and International Partnership negotiations between the United States and the European Union. He further noted that USTR officials are in Malaysia “hard at work” negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“If we are able to conclude these agreements - and let me be clear, it would be better to have no agreements than bad agreements - we will have created free trade with 65 percent of the global economy, 65 percent of the global trading system,” Froman said. “These agreements hold real, job-supporting export potential for each district on this committee.”

Froman told the committee that sequestration and other budget cuts have been compromising USTR's ability to conduct trade negotiations and other market-opening efforts.

“Financial constraints are forcing us to make difficult decisions every day on how to prioritize engagement in key markets, where to send expert negotiators and which enforcement actions to take,” Froman said. “The opportunities we miss have real effects on whether or not the American people are getting the full benefits of a robust trade policy and the jobs and growth promised by the agreements we have negotiated.”

After the hearing, Camp told reporters he was not sure his committee would have a bill ready before the August recess.

“I never like to put deadlines on this type of activity,” Camp said. “Clearly there is bipartisan work in the House and the Senate, and we're working together to conclude that.”

Camp noted that administration engagement is critical to the process of drafting legislation.

In the Senate, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., has said he plans to offer a TPA bill in the near future.

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