Can Congress Pass Trade Promotion Authority?

This week, Trade Promotion Authority suffered a setback when Democrats defied the White House and voted against bringing the bill to the Senate floor. President Barack Obama is privately working with Senate Democrats to find a way forward for his free trade initiative. Passage of Trade Promotion Authority is necessary in order for the US to secure major free trade deals with Asia and Europe. Agriculture stands to benefit tremendously from such agreements

Despite strong support from the President, Democrats are not supporting the legislation. Minnesota Congressman Collin Peterson said unions are pushing hard against TPA, “The unions and the environmentalists are really turning up the heat. They have a lot of sway with our party and most democrats will vote against TPA.”

Dave Warner with the National Pork Producers Council remains optimistic that in the end the TPA will be approved, “I think most lawmakers will in the end see how these trade agreements benefit our economy and create jobs. It will be close but I think it will pass.” Dave Salmonsen, with the American Farm Bureau Federation, says the White House still has a few more weeks to round up support, “If we can get TPA approved by June, then there will be time to finish negotiations on TPP over the summer.” Yet some Washington observers say it will be hard for the Senate to finish with TPA before the Memorial Day recess.

Even if the Senate approves the bill, Chuck Conner, with the National Association of Farmer Coops, says the House vote will be even tougher. He said it will be a case of a Democratic White House counting on Republicans to pass its bill,  “The House vote on TPA is always close and this one will be no exception. I think it will be a matter of just a few votes.”

This week the ISA urged its members to contact their lawmakers to press for support of TPA. Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly has stated he is not going to vote for TPA, “I want a good trade agreement for the United States as much as anyone, but I am not going to vote for TPA and willingly give up my ability to work for a better deal for Hoosier workers.” Donnelly said he is a strong supporter of agricultural trade but is concerned TPA will not lead to a good deal, “It is vitally important we keep Hoosier—and all American—businesses and industries competitive through the promotion of exports. Indiana grows and produces some of the best quality products in the world, which is why I have continually supported the promotion of agricultural exports and introduced legislation to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. We need to expand opportunities to sell these products around the world and grow our economy.”