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House advances stand-alone TPA bill

Senate now must decide whether to take up stand-alone bill to address just TPA and not in conjunction with Trade Adjustment Assistance.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed Trade Promotion Authority Thursday with a vote of 218 to 208, as stand-alone legislation. The vote follows an unsuccessful attempt June 12 to pass TPA and Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) as a package that previously was approved by the Senate.

The bill now moves to the Senate, and is part of an effort by congressional leadership to put TPA back on track following an unexpected defeat of Trade Adjustment Assistance last week that put the legislation in jeopardy.

The TAA vote failed overwhelmingly by a vote of 126-302 in the House on June 12. The TAA program would provide training and other assistance to U.S. workers whose jobs are displaced by international trade. Republicans largely are unsupportive of the program because of the costs associated with it.

When the House voted in favor of TPA on June 12, 28 Democrats voted in favor of the bill, while 54 Republicans voted against granting the President negotiating authority. In the second vote June 18, again 28 Democrats joined with 190 Republicans, while 50 Republicans voted against TPA.

Wade Cowan, American Soybean Assn., president said TPA will empower the administration, in the form of the U.S. Trade Representative, to better represent producers as critical negotiations are closing on the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. “For the better part of a decade, our partners at USTR have been charged with baking a cake without having access to the full complement of ingredients, if you will. TPA would give them the authority and the resources they need to represent most completely the needs of American farmers in global trade agreements.”

TPA does not lock the U.S. into any trade agreement that gives Americans access to markets, but it does set the rules as to how the administration can go about such negotiations. “With TPA, 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, consult us, and remember that we have the last say,” explained Rep. Kristi Noem (R., S.D.) who voted in favor of the bill.  “But it’s also important to remember that TPA in no way obligates Congress to approve the Trans Pacific Partnership or any other trade agreement.”

Philip Ellis, National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn., said, “Without TPA, it would be virtually impossible to negotiate future agreements with other countries, which would hinder our ability to gain greater access into foreign markets.” In 2014, U.S. beef exports accounted for over $7 billion in total sales and added over $350 in value for every head of cattle sold.

Full Senate reconsideration may come as early as next week. The top Senate Republican in charge of the trade package – Senate Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) - said it’s clear there is a bipartisan majority in Congress supporting renewing TPA.

“I appreciate the strong support of many of my Senate Democratic colleagues have provided in helping us advance this important bill. I remain committed to working with all of my colleagues in our chamber to get this bill, along with the other pending trade bills, across the finish line and signed into law,” Hatch said.

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