Bipartisan leaders of congressional committees with oversight on trade came together to introduce Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation, which could bring the United States one step closer to finalizing significant trade deals including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP).

Since 1974, Congress has enacted TPA legislation that establishes concrete rules for both Republican and Democratic Administrations to follow when negotiating trade agreements on behalf of the United States. TPA spells out the negotiating objectives and consultation process for the Executive Branch to follow. At the end of the negotiation and consultation process, Congress retains final authority to review and then give the agreement an up or down vote without amendment. TPA, which establishes rules for international trade negotiations, was allowed to expire in 2007.

“If we want to have a healthy economy with better jobs and bigger paychecks for more families and individuals, we must engage with other nations through trade. Our nation has been without Trade Promotion Authority since 2007. So, while other nations have moved forward and created trade agreements to benefit their workers, the United States has fallen behind,” said Chairman Hatch.

The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015) was introduced by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). TPA-2015 has three main objectives:

  • “Directs the Administration to pursue congressional prerogatives through congressionally-mandated negotiating objectives;
  • Establishes robust consultation and access to information requirements before, during and after negotiations to ensure an open and transparent process for members of Congress and the public; and
  • Preserves congressional prerogatives and gives Congress the final say in approving trade agreements, allowing removal of TPA procedures if the Administration fails to meet TPA requirements.

“Opening foreign markets, where most of the world’s consumers reside, is critical to creating new opportunities for middle-class American jobs. This bill, together with strong new enforcement tools, Trade Adjustment Assistance and the Health Coverage Tax Credit, sets our country on the right track to craft trade policies that work for more people,” said Ranking Member Wyden.

Many believe that renewing TPA is necessary in order to successfully finalize negotiations on the TPP and T-TIP, which according to information from the Finance Committee and Ways and Means Committee, would open markets with nearly 1 billion consumers, covering nearly two-thirds of global GDP and 65 percent of global trade.

"A good trade agreement will help create a healthier economy and high-paying American jobs. It will also strengthen our hand abroad and ensure that the United States is writing the rules of the global economy, instead of nations like China. But a good trade agreement requires a good TPA bill, and that’s why I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation,” Chairman Ryan said. “The bill makes sure that Congress will set the priorities in our trade agreements, and it includes unprecedented accountability, transparency, and enforceability measures. TPA will help us get the best deals for the American economy and American workers.”

According to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, more than 70 agricultural organizations support passage of TPA, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef AssociationAmerican Farm Bureau Federation, the U.S. Wheat Associates, the National Chicken Council, the National Pork Producers Council, the American Feed Industry Association, the National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council and more. The National Farmers Union, however, opposes the bill, and says it will lead to bigger trade deficits.

“The economy is strengthened in rural communities and throughout the entire country from the additional economic activity that flows from the expanded farm and processing business,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Standing still is not an option. Not only do we face barriers in important foreign markets, but we are currently being hurt as these countries negotiate agreements that lower barriers for our competitors. U.S. agriculture's interests are best served by ensuring America is at the table with strong negotiating authority."

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, the nation’s chief trade negotiator, says the legislation will provide “an important set of new tools to fight for American values and American interests.”

“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 Ambassador 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.”