A coalition of U.S. businesses, trade associations and agriculture groups mobilized this week in support of the newly introduced trade promotion authority bill, with more than 250 organizations signing a letter calling on the Senate Finance Committee to pass the legislation.
The groups urged lawmakers to pass the bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015, contending that doing so would strengthen negotiators’ ability to complete ambitious new comprehensive trade agreements designed to “level the playing field for U.S. businesses, farmers and workers.”
The bill strengthens Congress’ ability to set the direction for our trade agenda and to set negotiating objectives. It also enhances its ability to oversee trade negotiations, which will help ensure that new trade agreements reflect Congressional priorities and achieve strong U.S. outcomes. In addition, the legislation requires more transparency by strengthening consultations with both Congress and the public.
As noted in a joint editorial in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal by House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan and fellow Republican Senator Ted Cruz, titled “Putting Congress in Charge on Trade,” the new TPA legislation tasks the administration with meeting nearly 150 specific negotiating objectives, such as beefing up protections for U.S. intellectual property or eliminating kickbacks for government-owned firms, and also requires that it consult regularly with Congress according to “high transparency standards.” Should the administration fail to meet these requirements, “Congress can hit the brakes, cancel the vote and stop the agreement.”
Though Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch had said earlier this week that he would work with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden to advance their trade promotion authority bill with few or no amendments in order “to keep this as clean as possible,” so far there have been more than 200 amendments proposed, more than 80 just from one senator, Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown, an outspoken critic of free trade.