A coalition of groups representing American businesses, consumers, workers and agriculture this week called for action on Trade Promotion Authority legislation, which would give the President additional authority to negotiate trade agreements by "fast-tracking" the approval process and limiting Congress' ability to tack on amendments to trade deals.
"TPA is a critical tool for advancing pending and future trade agreements that support U.S. economic growth and jobs and benefit American businesses, farmers, and workers," the group said in a Sept. 9 letter to Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont. and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Reps. Dave Camp, R-Mich., and Sandy Levin, D-Mich.
Camp is the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee while Baucus represents the Senate Finance Committee.
The group explained that the TPA requires that the Executive Branch seek input from Congress before, during and after negotiations and allows Congress to specify negotiating objectives that the Executive Branch must pursue.
TBA said a version of the TPA had been in existence since the 1930s, but Congress enacted the last authority in 2002 and it lapsed in 2007. Since then, new issues and global changes have popped up, the group said, requiring not only a new TPA but an updated TPA.
"U.S. companies face many new challenges to doing business in the global marketplace since TPA was written more than a decade ago," the letter said.
Given that several trade negotiations including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, and the Trade in Services Agreement, are ongoing, the group added that quick action could pay off.
"These negotiations involve important 21st century trade issues – such as foreign restrictions on cross-border data flows, unfair competition from state-owned enterprises, intellectual property rights, forced localization barriers to trade and investment, and international regulatory cooperation – that have evolved or emerged since 2002," the group explained in its letter.
"By updating and passing TPA, Congress can help shape the negotiating goals pursued by U.S. negotiators while also strengthening the hand of those negotiators in achieving solid outcomes favorable to the United States."
Still, several legislative hurdles may ground any action on the bill, including pending decisions on the debt ceiling and Syria. According to a recent Politico article, cooperation among legislators working on the bill may also hinder quick action.
Some legislators outside of immediate negotiations have also reportedly signaled disapproval of renewing the TPA. A key argument is that Congress would be essentially "loaning" its power to the executive branch by only being able to vote up or down on some trade agreements.
The coalition, however, argues that the TPA increases Congressional input on trade negotiations by defining the principal negotiating objectives that U.S. negotiators must pursue. The group said it also protects Congress' oversight by mandating consultations with the Executive Branch throughout the negotiation process.
The American Farm Bureau serves as a lead organization on the TBA steering committee. The American Soybean Association this week signed on to the coalition, joining several other groups and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.