WASHINGTON, June 6, 2013 - The Obama Administration will push for Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), United States Trade Representative (USTR) nominee Michael Froman reported today during a Senate Finance Committee nomination hearing.

“We will consult with USTR and others if confirmed, but it is our intention to engage with this committee to work through TPA issues,” Froman said.

The promise from the presumed future USTR drew praise from a bipartisan group of committee members, including Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

“I’m pleased with the administration’s support of TPA,” Baucus said. The Montana senator said the authority would “lay the groundwork for a successful trade agenda,” and pledged to introduce a TPA bill later this month.

“Presidential involvement” in the TPA approval process is vital, Hatch said – and complained that lack of Democratic support had stymied TPA in the past.

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.

In his prepared statements, Froman pledged similar commitment to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – between the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and Japan – and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – between the United States and the European Union (EU).

If all negotiations are carried out successfully, Froman said, the United States will have established free trade with 65% of the global economy.

The nomination quickly covered other issues of interest to agricultural stakeholders. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., brought up the genetically engineered wheat discovered last week in an Oregon field and rehashed the trade consequences of the event. Since the discovery, Japan and certain South Korean wheat buyers have halted their purchase of some varieties of U.S. wheat.

“If confirmed, will you use all the tools to stand up for America’s agricultural exporters so they don’t face discriminatory treatment?” he asked.

Froman responded that he would.

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., sought assurance that Froman would enforce all trade rules already on the books, especially “at a time when U.S. poultry sees markets close because of non-tariff barriers.” Disagreements concerning sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) restrictions have plagued the trade relationships between the United States and countries like China and the EU.

Froman said enforcement has “been important for this administration,” and cited 18 cases, many in agriculture, that the United States has won through international trade enforcement bodies.

Froman also told Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., he would take a closer look at EU-imposed duties on U.S. ethanol products. The levies, which Thune called “unprecedented and unsupported,” drive up the price of U.S. ethanol sold in Europe by about 10 percent, or 25 cents per gallon.

Froman currently serves as deputy national security advisor for international economic affairs within the White House. It is believed Froman was key in pushing the President to open TTIP negotiations at the beginning of this year.


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