The president of the American Farm Bureau Federation praised lawmakers Thursday for introducing fast-track trade legislation to help accelerate talks on two key trade agreements with both Pacific and Atlantic trade partners.
In government parlance, TPA is needed to finish talks on TPP and TTIP.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., his committee ranking member, Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., introduced the legislation formally known as Trade Promotion Authority bill.
The bill creates guidelines for the Obama administration to follow in trade talks but also ensures Congress would take an up or down vote on a trade deal in quick order once the agreement has been submitted to lawmakers.
Currently, the Obama Administration is negotiation with 12 Pacific Rim countries on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as well as negotiating with the European Union on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
“The TPA legislation that we are introducing today will make sure that these trade deals get done, and get done right. This is our opportunity to tell the Administration – and our trading partners – what Congress’ negotiating priorities are,” Baucus said in a statement. “TPA legislation is critical to a successful trade agenda. It is critical to boosting U.S. exports and creating jobs. And it’s critical to fueling America’s growing economy.”
To close one or both of these trade deals, Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman said trade promotion authority is needed now. “The U.S. market is one of the most open in the world, yet our farmers and ranchers face high tariffs and other noncompetitive practices when they try to export their products,” Stallman said. “For U.S. agriculture to thrive, we have to correct these disparities and level the playing field. The current TPP and TTIP negotiations are our best chance to expand our trade opportunities, and only with TPA can we succeed in these negotiations.”
Still, trade promotion authority will have significant opposition. Unions, for instance, sent out statements Thursday criticizing the bill, arguing that trade promotion authority affects U.S. laws on workers' rights consumer protections and environmental standards. Also, Rep. Sandy Levin, D-Mich., ranking member on Ways & Means, chose not to back the bill. In a statement, Levin said trade promotion authority prevents Congress from playing a meaningful role in the talks. "The effort by Sen. Baucus, Rep. Camp and Sen. Hatch has fallen far short of adequately replacing the failed 2002 TPA model," Levin stated. "I do not support their proposal and am working with colleagues to develop legislation that fully meets today’s needs in a rapidly globalizing economy."
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said at a weekly press conference Thursday that he has told President Barack Obama trade promotion authority will be approved only if there is bipartisan support for it.
Baucus hopes to make as much progress as possible on the bill before his nomination to be the next U.S. ambassador to China is approved and he leaves the Senate, Washington Trade Daily said today. Baucus and Camp met one-on-one on Wednesday.
DTN Political Correspondent Jerry Hagstrom contributed to this report.
Follow me on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN.
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