For the second time in less than a week, the US House has voted to pass legislation that would give Trade Promotion Authority to the President. The bill now moves to the Senate and is part of an effort by Congressional leadership to put TPA back on track, following an unexpected defeat of Trade Adjustment Assistance last week which put the legislation in jeopardy. The Senate passed a previous version of TPA last month.
Farm groups are divided on the legislation. ASA President Wade Cowan, a soybean farmer from Brownfield, Texas, pointed to the bill as one that would empower the administration, in the form of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), to better represent producers of the nation’s largest farm export heading into finalization of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other critical negotiations. “We are again encouraged by the House’s commitment to TPA and encourage the same commitment from the Senate,” Cowan said. “For the better part of a decade, our partners at USTR have been charged with baking a cake without having access to the full complement of ingredients, if you will. TPA would give them the authority and the resources they need to represent most completely the needs of American farmers in global trade agreements.” National Corn Growers Association President Chip Bowling said, in a statement, “We must break down trade barriers and give America’s farmers, livestock producers, and businesses greater access to the world’s consumers. We are one step closer to that goal today.”
But National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson said today’s vote was a major setback for America’s workers, family farmers, and ranchers and for this nation’s future prosperity. “Unfortunately, instead of choosing to pass legislation that protects America’s workers, environment and health, Congress has instead passed a continuation of the status quo,” said Johnson. “And that means more lost middle-class jobs and higher trade deficits.”
National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons sees TPA and the trade deals it will foster as a job creator, “Manufacturers in the United States secured a victory today for all Americans, to spur job creation and drive economic growth and investment. A majority of the House of Representatives put politics aside and decisively acted to increase U.S. competitiveness and to open opportunities with the 95 percent of customers living outside our borders.”
The National Cattleman’s Beef Association urged the Senate to take the final step and approve TPA, stating that the legislation does not take away the ability of Congress to block a bad trade agreement. “Trade Promotion Authority gives Congress the ability to set definitive goals for the President in negotiations, and then requires any deal be brought back for final approval,” said Philip Ellis, NCBA President. “TPA does not give the President free rein to make trade deals. Without TPA, it would be virtually impossible to negotiate future agreements with other countries, which would hinder our ability to gain greater access into foreign markets,” NCBA stated in a release.
Pork Producers said they will be watching the vote in the Senate very closely. “We applaud the House for approving TPA, which is imperative for finalizing free trade agreements that boost U.S. exports and create U.S. jobs,” said NPPC President Dr. Ron Prestage, a veterinarian and pork producer from Camden, S.C. “Now we need the Senate to approve it, so that U.S. trade negotiators can get the best trade deals possible from other countries.”
Trade Promotion Authority was enacted in 1974 to build the framework for the Administration to negotiate trade agreements that support jobs, eliminate barriers, and stop unfair trade. Once signed by the President, Trade Promotion Authority will be reauthorized for five years.