WASHINGTON, Feb. 5, 2015—Dozens of agricultural and food groups sent a letter to every member of Congress today asking them to introduce and approve legislation renewing Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which sets consultation and notification requirements for a president to follow throughout the negotiation process for trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
TPA, the groups said, will allow U.S. negotiators the ability, with direction and backing from Congress, “to extract the best deals possible from other countries.” Without it, “our negotiating partners would be unwilling to make the toughest concessions.”
With TPA in place, once negotiators reach a deal, Congress would have to vote up or down on a treaty, with no amendments or filibusters. Congress has granted TPA to every president since 1974, with the most recent law approved in 2002 and expiring in 2007.
Among the groups and companies signing the letter are the National Pork Producers Council, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Soybean Association, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, USA Rice Federation, Cargill and Wal-Mart Stores.
In the letter, the 71 signees said the farmers, ranchers, food and agricultural companies they represent are heavily dependent on trade for their livelihoods, and that TPA would allow major trade deals with Asia Pacific countries (the TPP) and the European Union to be finalized.
The groups are particularly interested in concluding the TPP, which includes a dozen Pacific Rim nations whose economies account for 40 percent of global economic output.
“Should Congress not pass TPA, it will signal to our TPP partners and to the world that we are turning our back on the fastest growing economic region in the world,” the organizations said in the letter.
House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan on Thursday also called for passage of TPA. In a speech to the Washington International Trade Association, the Wisconsin Republican said our trading partners have to know that the deal the president wants is the deal Congress wants – and that lawmakers won’t try to change the agreement.
“If our trading partners don’t trust the administration—if they think it will make commitments that Congress will undo later—they won’t make concessions. Why run the risk for no reason?” Ryan said.
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