January 10, 2014
Leaders of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees this week introduced legislation that would give the president "fast-track" authority to put trade deals before Congress for an up- or down-vote without amendments.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (Mont.), Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (Utah) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (Mich.) introduced the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act (TPA) of 2014, which they said will also give Congress greater oversight over trade negotiations.
The bill comes as the Obama administration seeks to wrap up Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks with 11 Pacific Rim nations, as well as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the 28-member European Union. The treaties would create the world's biggest free-trade zones.
In a news release, the sponsors of the trade promotion authority (TPA) legislation noted that the bill provides for tougher, enforceable rules against barriers to U.S. agriculture.
Still, TPA passage is far from certain, with much of the opposition coming from the president's own party, many of whom are concerned about labor and environmental protections. In the House, Democrats Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), Louise Slaughter (N.Y.) and George Miller (Calif.) released a statement blasting the legislation. They said TPA would enable the president "to ram through far-reaching, secretly negotiated trade deals like the TPP that extend well beyond traditional trade matters."
The White House said the introduction of the legislation, which would replace trade authority that expired in 2007, is "an important step towards Congress updating its important role in trade negotiations."
Reprinted in part from Agri-Pulse