The long awaited Trade Promotion Authority legislation, which will lead to several major trade deals for US agriculture, is expected to be introduced in the Senate this week. Senate Finance Committee leaders Orrin Hatch and Ron Wyden appear poised to introduce a “fast track” trade promotion authority bill along with House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. The measure would allow President Barack Obama to submit free trade agreements to Congress for straight up or down votes without any amendments. It’s seen as key to completing the signature 12-country trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact.
Dave Warner, with the National Pork Producers Council, says quick action on this bill will help lead to quick action on some key trade deals that will benefit US agriculture, “Senate action will show other nations that we are serious about a trade deal and will prompt them to bring their best offer to the table.” Warner said the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, for example, would be a major benefit to US ag exports and will only become reality if TPA is passed.
For the pork industry, this agreement could result in a major jump in pork exports. “In 2014 the US exported $6.7 billion in pork products. With TPP in place, that figure could increase by 50%,” Warner said. Forces on both sides of the debate are ready for a fight once the bill is dropped. Proponents need to act fast or risk losing their opportunity to move the bill in the upcoming six-week work session because of competing demands for floor time.
There remains considerable opposition to TPA and the trade deals it will spawn. The big stumbling block to fast track authority remains in the House where most Democrats and their union and environmental backers oppose new trade deals that they argue will cost U.S. jobs. “The Trans-Pacific Partnership has been negotiated in secret for the last five years, and now Members of Congress are being asked to rubber stamp it. That is unacceptable,” said Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro, leader of a vocal Democrat opposition. Farm groups are urging members to press lawmakers for support of TPA.