Business Plans Push for Renewal of ‘Fast-Track’

Business Plans Push for Renewal of ‘Fast-Track’

The Business Roundtable is pushing Congress and the White House to renew fast-track trade authority in an effort to open markets around the world.

As the United States begins negotiations with the European Union and aims to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership by year’s end, the association of chief executives will lobby to re-establish trade promotion authority, which provides for speedy congressional consideration of trade deals.

“We think it’s a critical tool for the executive branch to effectively negotiate agreements and get them passed by Congress,” Roundtable President and former Michigan Gov. John Engler, told reporters Thursday. “Along with the TPP and pending EU-U. S. talks, we’re going to make trade promotion authority a key part of our advocacy this year. ”

Some lawmakers including Sander M. Levin of Michigan, the top-ranking Democratic member of the House Ways and Means Committee, do not want to provide fast-track authority until the Pacific Rim deal is completed. They do not want to facilitate implementation of that agreement until they determine if they like it.

Engler said lawmakers should begin crafting legislation now. “I’m afraid that if we get closer to specifics, then it’s easy to have a second guessing opportunity on the part of Congress, to say, ‘Well, before we go this far, maybe we ought to change that,'” Engler said.

Trade promotion authority provides expedited congressional action on implementing legislation for trade deals and is generally considered necessary to get trade agreements through Congress.

Under fast-track rules first authorized in 1974, legislation implementing a trade deal must receive up-or-down floor votes in each chamber, without amendments, within 90 days of its introduction after a “mock markup” process. Trade promotion authority has been used to move major trade agreements through Congress, including the North American Free Trade Agreement. No trade agreement submitted under fast-track procedures has been rejected by Congress. The 2002 reauthorization of trade promotion authority (PL 107-210) expired in 2007.

David Thomas, the Roundtable’s vice president overseeing international engagement, noted that over half of the senators and representatives were not in Congress during the last fast-track debate. “There’s always a need to continue to educate,” Thomas said. “That’s important, we think, to laying the strong foundation for an updated TPA. ”

Thomas said the business community wants an “enhanced and updated” form of fast-track to help U. S. trade negotiators grapple with issues that have arisen in the past decade. For example, companies face new challenges related to intellectual property rights as a result of digital commerce. The rise of state-owned enterprises in the developing world is another obstacle to expanded trade, as are other nations’ complex regulatory regimes, Thomas said.

Congressional leaders have signaled an interest in passing new fast-track legislation, although it’s unclear when they might begin the arduous and inevitably controversial work of drafting a bill.

During last week’s confirmation hearing for Treasury secretary nominee Jacob J. Lew, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont. , said “TPA is a good opportunity to write a kind of trade authority with some provisions in it that move us into the 21st century.