Trade Promotion Authority, which gives the U.S. president authority to negotiate international agreements with the assurance that Congress will only have an up or down vote on trade pacts, is one step closer to the president’s desk.
The Senate approved that authority in passing the Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 May 22 in a 62-37 vote.
Most U.S. ag organizations are heralding the passage and urging House members to likewise approve TPA to give the administration leverage in trade deals, particularly the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership.
That agreement, between the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim countries, has the potential to boost overall U.S. trade activity by $123 billion, with an additional $11 billion in agricultural sales, according to USDA.
Critics say the process lacks transparency. The draft of the deal is secret and members of Congress can only read it under tight restrictions.
Democrat opponents say the deal will be bad for American union workers and lacks sufficient safeguards against currency manipulation by trading partners.
U.S. ag groups pushing for TPA say it is critical to future and pending trade deals and are weighing in on the importance of House action.
“TPA streamlines negotiations and strengthens our position at the bargaining table. We urge the House to act swiftly … to protect the future of agricultural trade,” said American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership, for example, holds ample opportunity for the beef industry, particularly in Japan and Vietnam where tariffs on U.S. beef products are high and non-science based restrictions are numerous, said Kent Baucus, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association associate director of legislative affairs.
“Unfortunately, Congress has a reputation of mutilating perfectly good legislation,” attaching unrelated legislation designed to kill the original legislation, he said.
“It’s impossible to negotiate a trade deal with more than 500 negotiators in the room,” he said, referring to Congress.
That’s why it’s so important TPA be reauthorized, he said.
Beef exports are strong at more than $7 billion and 14 percent of U.S. production and account for $350 per head of cattle.
TPA “will allow us to build on that demand,” he said.
National Corn Growers Association president Chip Bowling said the legislation is critical to removing trade barriers, expanding U.S. access to global markets and ensuring farmers get the best possible trade agreements.
U.S. Dairy Export Council President Tom Suber said TPA paves the way to press U.S. negotiating partners to make their best offers on the most sensitive issues.
In particular, it is essential in negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership to increase pressure on Japan and Canada to extend their best offers, said National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Jim Mulhern.
U.S. potato exports account for one out of every five rows of potatoes grown in the U.S. and represented $1.7 billion in 2014. Higher tariffs levels than those faced by international competitors can eliminate such export opportunities, the National Potato Council stated.
National Pork Producers Council said TPA is imperative for finalizing free-trade agreements that boosts U.S. exports and create U.S. jobs, and failure to pass it would send a signal to the world that the U.S. is turning its back on the Asia-Pacific region – the fastest growing area in the world – and allowing other countries to write the rules for international trade.
In opposition, National Farmers Union contends TPA does not address the U.S. trade deficit or currency manipulation by member countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.