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Bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority bill introduced

House and Senate leaders introduce TPA bill that helps smooth trade agreement approvals.

Congress hasn't approved Trade Promotion Authority – otherwise known as fast-track approval – for the President to use within trade negotiations since 2007.

Thursday top bipartisan leaders from both the Senate and House jointly introduced legislation that lays out Congress' negotiating priorities to both the Administration and trading partners. The TPA legislation will restore the president’s authority to negotiate trade deals that Congress can pass or reject but cannot amend, which is seen as crucial for final passage of pending negotiations, most notably the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D., Mont.), ranking member Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.) joined together to introduce the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014 which establishes 21st century Congressional negotiating objectives and rules for the Administration to follow when engaged in trade talks, including strict requirements for Congressional consultations and access to information.

TPA-2014 updates labor and environment provisions to reflect recent trade agreements, as well as market access priorities for goods and services. It strengthens oversight by Congress and the public by adding consultation and reporting requirements. TPA-2014 also provides for tougher, enforceable rules against barriers to U.S. agriculture. And for the first time, TPA-2014 sets out a clear directive on currency manipulation, something that was being pushed by members on both sides of the aisle.

Specifically it's designed to strengthen rules for agriculture including updated provisions that seek robust and enforceable rules on sanitary and phytosanitary measures and address improper use of geographical indications.

“The TPA legislation that we are introducing will make sure that these trade deals get done, and get done right. This is our opportunity to tell the Administration – and our trading partners – what Congress’ negotiating priorities are,” Baucus said.

Many recognize that without TPA, other countries are reluctant to finalize negotiations with the United States for fear that any hard-won trade agreement could be undone through amendments in Congress. In the joint statement from Baucus, Hatch and Camp they called TPA a "vital tool" as the U.S. continues Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations as well as free trade agreement talks with the European Union (EU).

The two trade deals offer the U.S. landmark opportunities to boost exports. The TPP countries – which represent many of the fastest-growing economies in the world – accounted for 40% of total U.S. goods exports in 2012. And the EU purchased close to $460 billion in U.S. goods and services that same year, supporting 2.4 million American jobs.

“This trade negotiation authority is needed now,” said American Farm Bureau Federation president Bob Stallman. He added that for negotiations to keep moving forward on TPP and T-TIP, TPA authority needs to be in place. "We urge Congress to pass the bill without delay and show that the United States is committed to completing these trade negotiations.”

Nick Giordano, vice president and counsel for international affairs at the National Pork Producers Council, said there's already been tremendous communication between the House and the Senate on the TPA bill and the hope is it will move expeditiously. He did note it may be more complicated with Baucus' expected departure to become the ambassador to China.

Giordano added though that TPA is a procedural mechanism, while the real dollars and value opportunities come from a completed TPP agreement. The success of TPP lies in the hands of Japan and moving away from its position to refusing to eliminate tariffs of their agricultural sector, Giordano added.

"There's never a perfect TPA bill or trade agreement," he said. But TPA allows for Congress to be heard, ask questions once a finalized trade agreement is reached and then make the decision as to whether to support the agreement or not.  

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