17 Apr Trade Promotion Authority Bill Introduced in Both Houses of Congress
Leaders from both parties introduced Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation in both Houses of Congress Thursday that President Obama needs to consummate a new trade deal in Asia that is widely supported by athletic and outdoor brands.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said the bipartisan, bicameral bill establishes concrete rules for international trade negotiations to help the United States deliver strong, high-standard trade agreements that will boost American exports and create new economic opportunities and better jobs for American workers, manufacturers, farmers, ranchers and entrepreneurs.
The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015) outlines 21st century congressional negotiating objectives that any administration – Republican or Democratic – must follow when entering into and conducting trade talks with foreign countries while also increasing transparency by requiring that Congress have access to important information surrounding pending trade deals and that the public receive detailed updates and see the full details of trade agreements well before they are signed. When the trade agreement meets the United States’ objectives and Congress is sufficiently consulted, the legislation allows for trade deals to be submitted to Congress for an up-or-down vote, an incentive for negotiating nations to put their best offer forward for any deal. At the same time, the bill creates a new mechanism to withdraw TPA procedures and hold the administration accountable should it fail to meet the requirements of TPA.
Obama Administration welcomes bill
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, who is Obama’s senior trade advisor, immediately welcomed the news.
“The Bipartisan Trade Priorities and Accountability Act represents the most significant upgrade to our approach to trade in over four decades, including the requirement that labor and environmental protections be fully enforceable; new requirements for taking on unfairly subsidized foreign state owned enterprises; strong and balanced intellectual property protections; and new consultations and transparency requirements,” said Froman. “These provisions put American workers first and reflect the seismic shifts we have seen in the global economy since 2002, when Congress last passed trade promotion legislation.
Hatch noted that the absence of Trade Promotion Authority since 2007 had put U.S. businesses at a competitive disadvantage.
“While other nations have moved forward and created trade agreements to benefit their workers, the United States has fallen behind,” Hatch said. “This is a smart, bipartisan compromise that will help move America forward. The renewal of TPA will help American workers and job creators unlock new opportunities for growth and promote better, higher-paying jobs here at home. If we want to maintain our nation’s economic leadership and promote American values around the world, we must reach beyond our borders, and this bill is a strong first step.”
Democrats say labor and environmental standards intact
Wyden noted that the bill includes key provisions Democrats have insisted on, including Trade Adjustment Assistance and the Health Coverage Tax Credit that provide assistance to U.S. workers displaced by trade liberalization and labor and environmental standards.
“I’m proud this bipartisan bill creates what I expect to be unprecedented transparency in trade negotiations, and ensures future trade deals break new ground to promote human rights, improve labor conditions, and safeguard the environment. At the core of this agreement is a new mandate for the Open Internet, free speech and digital commerce, by ensuring information can flow freely across national borders over the Internet.”
Ryan said the bill helps ensure that the United States is writing the rules of the global economy, instead of nations like China.
“The bill makes sure that Congress will set the priorities in our trade agreements, and it includes unprecedented accountability, transparency, and enforceability measures,” Ryan said. “TPA will help us get the best deals for the American economy and American workers.”
TPA-2015 creates a stronger, more effective framework for Congress to partner with an administration in the pursuit of trade agreements that meets the demands of the 21st century global economy – a framework that ensures Congress has a strong voice in negotiations.
Currency manipulation, IP safeguards addressed
The bill establishes new trade-negotiating objectives that reflect today’s economic challenges, including measures to combat currency manipulation, and eliminate barriers to innovation and digital trade, among others. Updated provisions address government involvement in cyber theft, protect trade secrets and the negotiating objectives continue to call for trade agreements to provide a high standard of intellectual property protection. The bill also updates provisions to promote human rights, and strengthen labor and environment protection, to reflect America’s most recent trade accords.
Congressional oversight strengthened
Furthermore, TPA-2015 modifies TPA procedures to enhance accountability of the Executive Branch and further strengthen congressional oversight and creates a new mechanism for the removal of expedited procedures for a trade agreement if, in the judgment of either the House or Senate, that agreement does not meet the requirements of TPA.
The TPA bill comes as the two of the most ambitious trade negotiations in the nation’s history – the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) – are underway to further tear down trade barriers to American goods and services. According to data from the World Bank, together these two trade agreements would further open markets encompassing nearly 1.3 billion customers and approximately 60 percent of global gross domestic product. 
TPA expired in 2007 and is needed for the United States to successfully conclude these negotiations.