USTR's Vetter says TPA 'critical' for concluding trade treaties

By Daniel Enoch

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ARLINGTON, Va., Feb. 19, 2015 -- Darci Vetter, the U.S. Trade Representative's chief agricultural negotiator, said her team has made "significant progress" in recent talks with Japan regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership but she says Congress needs to pass fast-track Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) to get the deal over the finish line.

While TPA is usually described as legislation that gives the president the power to negotiate a treaty on which Congress can only vote up or down, Vetter stressed that it would also allow Congress to "provide a blueprint for negotiating trade agreements that will win support at home."

In an after-dinner speech Thursday at the USDA's annual Agricultural Outlook Forum, Vetter called TPA a "critical" tool for completing TPA negotiations with 11 other Pacific Rim nations and a separate deal with the European Union.

Lets Talk Food

She said the two trade agreements have the most ambitious agendas of any treaties in decades and are aimed at reducing tariffs that are restricting U.S. exports, including a wide array of agricultural goods, and costing American producers billions of dollars a year.

The two treaties, she said, will "level the playing field" and allow the U.S. to "set the rules of the road." Vetter said if the U.S. fails to conclude the treaties, American farmers and manufacturers would risk losing market share, especially in Asia where China is aggressively trying to set up its own trade agreements.

"The bottom line is, we face an important choice," Vetter said. "We can lead and ensure that the global trading system reflects our values and our interests, or allow others to come in and take our place."

 

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