Senate Finance Committee leaders on Thursday moved forward on a bill authorizing Trade Promotion Authority, which could speed negotiation of pending trade deals, including the Trans Pacific Partnership and Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015) outlines congressional negotiating objectives for entering into and conducting trade talks with foreign countries.
The objectives aim to make the process more transparent by requiring that Congress have access to important information surrounding pending trade deals, and that the public receive updates and deal details well before agreements are signed.
The legislation further stipulates that when trade agreement meets the United States' objectives and Congress is sufficiently consulted, trade deals may be submitted to Congress for an up-or-down vote.
At the same time, the bill creates a new mechanism to withdraw Trade Promotion Authority procedures and hold the administration accountable should it fail to meet the requirements of TPA.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and in the House, Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., introduced the bipartisan, bicameral legislation.
Proponents of the legislation suggest it ensures potential trading partners that the U.S. is serious about finalizing a trade deal, and has put its best proposal forward. It also provides certainty that a deal cannot be altered during the Congressional approval process.
Opponents, however, suggest that TPA nearly eliminates Congress' participation in trade deal approvals.
Ag groups largely support TPA, noting that it could expand export opportunities for commodities like milk and milk products, meats and other goods.
With TPA, said National Pork Producers Council President Dr. Ron Prestage, "U.S. trade negotiators will have the leverage they need to close the TPP negotiations. And the U.S. pork industry needs TPP to continue growing our exports."
"We cannot sit idly by and allow others to fill consumer demand around the world," House Ag Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, said in response to the TPA bill. "The Agriculture Committee will do its part to ensure [pending trade deals] are favorable to U.S. agriculture. At the end of the day, even with TPA in place, it is Congress who decides if trade agreements will be ratified. But, passing TPA is an essential part of getting to that point."
But another ag group, the National Farmers Union, is concerned about the TPA's ability to pave the way for the trade deals in negotiations.
"TPA is just the continuation of the same old thing, trade agreements that make huge promises of prosperity and jobs to the American public and deliver nothing but bigger deficits, exported jobs and lost domestic agricultural sales," NFU President Roger Johnson said.
According to data from the World Bank and provided by the Senate Finance Committee, TTIP and TPP together would further open markets encompassing nearly 1.3 billion customers and approximately 60% of global gross domestic product.