Froman talks trade in Senate Finance hearing

USTR chief relates desire to work together on TPA with Congress and updates status of ongoing trade negotiations

In order for the President to capitalize on a somewhat aggressive trade agenda, Congress needs to grant him Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), Senate Finance Committee members shared Thursday.

During questioning before the committee May 1, U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman said he welcomed the opportunity to secure a TPA bill that could garner broad bipartisan support. Earlier this year then committee leader Sen. Max Baucus (D., Mont.) and ranking member Ranking member Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) introduced a bill to do so.

However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has objected to the current TPA bill.

Hatch said if TPA is not renewed “it creates a serious, and perhaps fatal, flaw in the President’s trade agenda.”

Hatch called on the Administration to redouble its efforts to sign into law TPA as soon as possible with the “political clock ticking” to do something this summer.

During the hearing Froman recognized the strong role that farmers and ranchers play in U.S. trade and also said it will be important for negotiators to continue to improve market access opportunities, especially under ongoing negotiations in the Trans Pacific Partnership and discussions with the European Union in the Trans-Atlantic Trade Initiative Partnership (TTIP).

Froman said the fifth round of TTIP will be held this month, and USTR continues to push the need for the EU to back off its aggressive stance on geographical indicators. By the practice of permitting the use of food names such as parmesan, bologna and black forest ham, the EU can provide protection for its domestic producers of products while at the same time limiting imports for commonly assumed product names.

Froman was quick to point out that the U.S. opposes EU’s GI system. The EU is able to export billions of dollars of its products to the U.S., but U.S. producers are not able to export commonly named items such as feta cheese.

He said he hasn’t convinced his European counterparts to give up on the GI, but in the end common names and trademark approach allows room for both trading partners to have access to each other’s markets.

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