Top presidential economists call on Congress to pass TPA

By Philip Brasher

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WASHINGTON, March 6, 2015 - Top presidential economic advisers from both parties going back to Gerald Ford are calling on Congress to give President Obama fast-track negotiating authority.

In the letter, the 14 economists also argue against using trade agreements to address currency manipulation, an issue that has been raised by many Democrats.

“International trade is fundamentally good for the U.S. economy, beneficial to American families over time, and consonant with our domestic priorities,” the letter says. “That is why we support the renewal of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) to make it possible” to conclude the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and a second deal with the European Union.

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The letter signers include Christina Romer, Austan Goolsbee and Alan Krueger, who chaired the President's Council of Economic Advisers in succession from 2009 to 2013 under President Obama and two more who served under President Clinton, Laura D'Andrea Tyson and Martin N. Baily.

The economists said that trying to stop currency manipulation through trade deals could backfire on the United States.

“This is because monetary policy affects the value of currencies. Attempts to penalize countries for supposedly manipulating exchange rates would thus impose constraints on U.S. monetary policy, to the detriment of all Americans,” the letter says.

The release of the letter comes as Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is struggling to get his committee's ranking Democrat, Ron Wyden, to sign onto a bipartisan TPA bill. Hatch said this week that work on the legislation is likely delayed until April at the earliest.

A Nebraska Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, which handles trade legislation, said Congress needs to pass TPA legislation this spring in order to have time to consider a TPP agreement this year after the required 90-day review.

“We're still on that track,” despite the Senate delay, Rep. Adrian Smith said. “I think that the administration has stepped up its efforts.”

The Senate is expected to vote on TPA before the House. Advocates say that Japan and Canada won't agree to remove barriers to U.S. agricultural trade, a critical final step to concluding the Trans-Pacific Partnership, until TPA is enacted and they are assured the agreement will be put to an up-or-down vote in Congress.

The economists who signed the letter and the period when they chaired the Council of Economic Advisers:

Alan Greenspan, Greenspan Associates  (1974 to 1977)

Charles L. Schultze, Brookings Institution (1977 to 1981)

Martin Feldstein, Harvard University (1982 to 1984)

Michael J. Boskin, Stanford University (1989 to 1993)

Laura D'Andrea Tyson, UC Berkeley (1993 to 1995)

Martin N. Baily, Brookings Institution (1999 to 2001)

R. Glenn Hubbard, Columbia University (2001 to 2003)

N. Gregory Mankiw, Harvard University (2003 to 2005)

Harvey S. Rosen, Princeton University (2005)

Ben S. Bernanke, Brookings Institution (2005 to 2006)

Edward P. Lazear, Stanford University (2006 to 2009)

Christina D. Romer, UC Berkeley (2009 to 2010)

Austan D. Goolsbee, University of Chicago (2010 to 2011)

Alan B. Krueger, Princeton University (2011 to 2013)

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