FAST track. TPA. TPP. Blind votes. So many buzzwords. Manufactured confusion. What does it all really mean?
In today's environment of social media hype and news blurbs that focus on buzzwords, there's plenty of "intended and unintended confusion flying around," House Ways & Means Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), a co-author of the trade bill, said in his floor speech ahead of the House's first vote to pass trade promotion authority (TPA).
I'd like to think many Feedstuffs readers are well educated on the importance of trade (95% of the world's consumers live outside the U.S.) and the implications of some of the most important votes and negotiations. Sometimes, however, communicating what you know to the masses may not be so easy.
Here's a bit of a cheat sheet on some of the myths floating around and the truths behind them.
* Myth: TPA is a secret trade deal.
Fact: TPA gives Congress a say in what is being negotiated by establishing 150 negotiating objectives. TPA improves transparency by requiring public review after a deal is closed and congressional involvement throughout negotiations, Ryan said.
"If TPA is established, Congress is telling the Administration: If a trade agreement is to get the privilege of an up or down vote in Congress, you must follow our rules and instructions, keep us in the loop and remember that we have the last say," Rep. Kristi Noem (R., S.D.) explained.
* Myth: Congress is currently voting on a trade agreement.
Fact: Often, TPA gets mentioned with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement currently being negotiated with 12 other countries.
"A vote for TPA is not a vote for TPP or any other trade agreement. It does not prejudge the treaty terms themselves," the National Milk Producers Federation and U.S. Dairy Export Council said in a statement. "Our negotiators are working hard to deliver a trade agreement that reflect the basic needs of the dairy industry. TPA allows negotiators to finish their job and then allows a meaningful debate on the merits of these agreements."
* Myth: TPP negotiations have been completely secretive.
Fact: The U.S. Trade Representative and Congress have met nearly 1,700 times in the last five years to discuss TPP negotiations. Key congressional committees have also received previews of various TPP proposals before USTR took them to trading partners.
"Earlier drafts are not made public in this way, because revealing draft proposals before a deal is struck emboldens our opposition, undermines our negotiating positions and exposes negotiators to public scrutiny over provisions that might not even be in a final deal. We need to keep the upper hand to get the best deal for America," Noem explained.
* Myth: TPA allows the President to fast track a bill without giving Congress or the public time to review it.
Fact: Ryan said TPA used to be called "fast track" because it would allow trade deals to whiz through Congress. Now, TPA increases transparency and the time allotted to evaluate a deal before Congress gives its up or down vote.
When an agreement is reached among trading partners, the public gets 60 days to view the full text. When the President does sign the bill, it goes to Congress for final ratification and must obtain a majority of votes to actually go into effect.