Trade Promotion Authority is not the Free Trade Utopia it Seems

The Republican establishment is willing to give Obama this unconstitutional power because they’ve been bought by big business. Slick lobbyists for the National Association of Manufacturers, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Farm Bureau, among others, have warned Republican members of Congress that if they do not vote for TPA, they will lose huge campaign contributions in their next election.

Thirty-five of the 36 House Republican freshmen in Congress have said they would like to provide President Obama with “Trade Promotion Authority” (TPA), which would allow him to “fast-track” the negotiation of reciprocal trade agreements, instead of wrangling through the specifics with Congress. Ostensibly, it would make free trade agreements easier to implement. TPA would prohibit Congress from filibustering or adding any amendments to the agreements, instead they would simply be voted up or down within 90 days. Foreign countries wouldn’t need to negotiate with 535 individual members of Congress. Congress would still be required to ratify any agreements, although only a simple majority vote would be required.

Past presidents have asked for and received trade agreement negotiating authority from Congress, including George W. Bush. TPA started under President Nixon, who wanted the authority to negotiate complex issues like government procurement and intellectual property laws. Republicans got TPA passed for Bush in 2002 over the objections of Democrats. Once passed, TPA stays in effect for five years. It has not been renewed since it expired in 2007.

Obama wants TPA in order to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with eleven countries that are mostly located along the Pacific Rim, and negotiate the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the European Union. It would be very difficult and time-consuming for him to negotiate those agreements without TPA. Should it become law, the TPP will be the largest free trade agreement in U.S. history, covering approximately 40 percent of the world’s economy.

Read the rest of the article at the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research

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