Top Senate Democrat says no deal on TPA

By Philip Brasher

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Feb. 20, 2015 - The Senate Finance Committee's top Democrat, Ron Wyden of Oregon, is accusing Republicans of moving prematurely to advance President Obama's trade agenda, including a bill to give the him the fast-track negotiating authority to finish a Pacific Rim agreement.

Wyden, who hasn't reached agreement with Republicans on what should be in the legislation, took exception Friday to Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, scheduling a trade hearing for next Thursday.

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“Today's hearing announcement is premature,” said Wyden spokesman Keith Chu. “There is no agreement on Trade Promotion Authority, or other aspects of the legislative trade agenda more broadly.”

Wyden “is continuing to fight for more transparency, more oversight and provisions to ensure American workers come first in our trade policy,” Chu said in a reference to the disagreement over provisions of the TPA legislation. There has been considerable speculation that Hatch would release a TPA bill next week, but the statement from Wyden's office suggests that is unlikely.

When asked last week about when his committee would bring out a TPA bill, Hatch told Agri-Pulse that “a lot depends on my colleague from Oregon,” meaning Wyden.

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A spokeswoman for Hatch, Julia Lawless, said Friday that next week's hearing is intended to give committee members “an opportunity to discuss their trade priorities for this Congress." She said Hatch is continuing to negotiate with Wyden and House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., "regarding bipartisan legislation to renew job-creating Trade Promotion Authority as well as other important trade initiatives.”

 

The administration's chief agricultural negotiator, Darci Vetter, said Thursday at USDA's annual Agricultural Outlook Forum that TPA is "critical" to completing both the Trans-Pacific Partnership and a second agreement with the European Union.

 

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