WASHINGTON, March 10, 2015 – Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch says he wants to have legislation ready by the beginning of April to provide the president with fast-track trade authority, but he continues to resist some Democratic demands that would threaten its "workability."
Hatch, R-Utah, and the committee’s ranking Democrat, Ron Wyden of Oregon, continue to negotiate on a Trade Promotion Authority bill but they provided no details Tuesday.
Republicans say Wyden has been insisting on restrictions in the process for reviewing trade agreements that would make it more difficult to get to a final up-or-down vote. “I’m not willing to diminish the workability of that particular legislation,” Hatch said. “It’s just that simple. I don't think there's a compromise on that."
Although many Democrats and some Republicans are insisting that a TPA bill require trade agreements to address currency manipulation, Wyden didn’t list that among his priorities. His priorities, he said, were transparency, enforcement and a “strong role for congressional oversight in negotiations,” an apparent reference to the differences over procedure.
Meanwhile, 26 of the 48 freshman House Republicans have signed a letter supporting TPA. “Swift action early this year on TPA would pave the way for sustained economic growth and job creation,” says the letter, which was led by Tom Emmer of Minnesota.
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Enactment of TPA is seen as critical to the Obama administration's ability to wrap up the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement this year. The United States is hosting a meeting of the TPP negotiators meeting in Hawaii this week.
The administration is working, meanwhile, to shore up support for its trade agenda with its Democratic base. On Wednesday, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman was in northern California to tour Amy’s Kitchen, a family-owned organic food maker that exports frozen and canned products.
“Companies like Amy’s Kitchen, who are creating well-paying American jobs in their community thanks to exporting, are the reason that President Obama has made his trade agenda a centerpiece of middle class economics,” Froman said in a statement.
New trade agreements “will help grow our Main Street, support job creation, and strengthen the middle class” he added.