For the last five years the United States has failed to make significant progress in any trade negotiations as the President's Trade Promotion Authority expired in 2007. The result has been our world competitors more quickly enacting bilateral and multilateral agreements while the United States sits back and watches.
One of the most promising trade deals underway for the United States is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just last week Japan announced it intends to participate in the talks. The TPP is a regional trade negotiation that includes the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, which account for a combined 30% of global GDP.
In one of his first responsibilities as the acting U.S. Trade Representative, Demetrios Marantis testified before the Senate Finance Committee March 19 voicing support for working on reinstituting TPA and on the President's trade agenda.
Marantis assumed the post from Ambassador Ron Kirk March 15 who is departing after four years in the Obama Administration. Marantis, who previously served as a staffer at the Senate Finance Committee, has been at USTR since 2009 and responsible for U.S. trade negotiations and enforcement in Asia and Africa, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and congressional passage of the U.S.-Korea trade agreement which celebrated its one-year anniversary March 15.
In his opening statement, he said USTR in support of market-opening efforts, the agency looks "forward to beginning work with you on Trade Promotion Authority." TPA is the authority Congress grants to the President to enter into certain reciprocal trade agreements, and to have their implementing bills considered under expedited legislative procedures, provided the President observes certain statutory obligations.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, a senior member of the committee, said the statement from Marantis "is the most definitive statement" he's heard from the Administration on the need to renew TPA.
"The Senate majority should heed the call and move to reinstate Trade Promotion Authority as soon as possible," Grassley said.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said in testimony, "TPA could have been done a long time ago" and he criticized Kirk for not taking steps to engage Congress on reinstating TPA despite Kirk testifying before the committee saying he would.
Committee chairman Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said given the ambitious trade agenda including the TPP and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership in Europe the need for TPA is clear.
"TPA is a key negotiating tool and will help bring these trade agreements to a successful conclusion," he said, adding that it's been more than a decade since the last TPA was renewed. Since then exports have more than doubled, which means a new TPA should reflect new realities that come with economic priorities and challenges.
"I’m pleased that the Administration has indicated its interest in working with Congress to get TPA done. Working together, we will pass this important trade legislation," Baucus said.
Let's hope that Congress can move forward on reauthorizing TPA that provides the Administration and its trade negotiators with the tools to help find more homes for U.S. ag products.