WASHINGTON, May 1, 2014 – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., refused Thursday to recommend a timeline for passage of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), telling reporters that he “[intends] to move as quickly as possible” on the legislation while “taking the time to do it right.”
The senator’s comments following his first trade hearing as head of the Finance Committee added fuel to many observers’ predictions that Congress will not pass TPA until after the midterm elections. The measure would renew the “fast track” authority of a president to negotiate a trade deal that Congress could only vote up or down without amendments or filibusters.
Meanwhile, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the panel’s ranking member, said he is displeased with President Obama’s “passive approach” on TPA, and pushed Congress to pass the legislation in June.
A number of foreign governments have indicated they would be unwilling to conclude either the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the European Union or the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with Pacific Rim nations unless TPA is renewed.
Wyden also said that the U.S. negotiators made the right decision in leaving Japan last week without a bilateral deal, which U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman says currently hinges on agriculture and automobiles.
“The administration made the judgment that no deal is better than a bad deal,” Wyden told reporters.
During the Senate Finance hearing, Froman, the only witness, said that he has “not yet convinced” European Union officials involved in TTIP negotiations to adopt American views on geographical indications, or GIs. The European Union hopes to prevent U.S. companies from using a number of standard, place-based GIs, including “feta,” “mozzarella,” and “bologna.”
“This is a lot of bologna,” Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said of the issue during the hearing.
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