Industry groups respond to Trade Promotion Authority
Industry groups including The National Retail Federation and The United States Council for International Businesses are among those urging Congress to move fast on the approval of a trade promotion authority bill. The National Farmers Union and the Sierra Club, in addition to some Democrats in Congress, are vocalizing strong opposition to the legislation.
The bill, which was introduced Thursday by House and Senate finance committee chairmen, would speed up consideration of trade agreements brought to Congress by the president. The "Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014" would renew the president’s authority to submit trade agreements to Congress for a vote without amendments. The authority expired in 2007.
“The legislation is seen as critically important in order for the United States to conclude ongoing trade negotiations with Asia and Europe, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership,” the NRF said in a statement.
“The U.S. can compete and win in the global economy, but not with our hands tied behind our back,” USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson said in a statement. “We need TPA, and we need it now.”
Dozens of trade associations and companies have joined a coalition to support TPA re-authorization, including the Business Roundtable, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Institute for International Steel and the National Association of Manufacturers.
President Obama last summer called for the authority, and top administration officials have repeatedly urged Congress to pass the measure.
National Foreign Trade Council President Bill Reinsch on Thursday stated, “Congress hasn’t had a substantive debate on trade in more than a decade, and TPA allows Congress to execute its constitutional authority to shape the U.S. trade agenda and set negotiating objective.”
The legislation, however, has also been met with opposition.
In November, 151 House Democrats and 23 House Republicans sent letters to Obama in expressing their opposition to the TPA.
Rep. Sander Levin, the top Democrat on the House committee overseeing trade, has announced his opposition to the fast-track legislation, saying it should demand a more active role for Congress and promote greater scrutiny of negotiations by lawmakers.
"The vast majority of Democrats feel that we need to have a much more active, vigorous role for Congress in addressing trade issues, and there needs to be much more transparency and issues like currency have to be addressed," Levin told reporters.
In response to Thursday’s introduction of the legislation, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune issued the following statement: “The Sierra Club opposes fast track, an outdated and inappropriate mechanism for trade pacts as expansive as the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and the proposed U.S.-EU trade deal. This legislation strips Congress of its defining democratic characteristic — its check-and-balance structure. If Congress is not able to fully debate and, if necessary, amend the language of these all-encompassing trade pacts, the environment, our climate, and our families could suffer as a result.”
Democracy for America, a political action committee, has also announced its opposition.
"The Trans-Pacific Partnership would be an unmitigated disaster for everything from the environment to Internet freedom and working families,” Executive Director Charles Chamberlain stated. “Members of Congress must be able to work to ensure that any proposed trade agreement is a fair deal for all Americans, not just the rich and powerful, who have a seat at the table during closed-door negotiations.
“Let's be clear: A vote for fast track authority on the TPP is a vote for a deal that will hurt hardworking Americans and haunt every single member of Congress, Republican or Democrat, who votes for it."
Similar legislation has faced a firestorm of opposition in the past. In 2007, the Citizens Trade Campaign released a letter from 713 national, state and local organizations urging Congress to allow TPA to expire.