Trade Authority Moving Through Congress

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Late last week, the House Ways and Means Committee followed in the steps of the Senate Finance Committee, and produced its own trade promotion authority (TPA) bill.

Under the constitution Congress regulates trade, but with TPA, it can delegate that power to the president instead, limiting its own authority to assure trading partners hard-won deals won’t be altered.

With TPA, deals brokered by the executive branch cannot be amended, and have to pass Congress on an up-or-down vote.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says he supports TPA, due to his belief that Congress, an institution of 535 people, is too cumbersome to effectively negotiate trade deals.

He says, ”It has to come to Congress, and we get a chance to pass it as law. And if we pass it as law, then we’re part of that free trade agreement. If we don’t pass it, then it obviously doesn’t go into effect. So, it’s quite appropriate for Congress to have the final say on it, because of that constitutional power of Congress to regulate interstate and foreign commerce.”

The recent action on TPA has occurred in relation to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a controversial free trade agreement involving 12 Pacific Rim nations and affecting about 40 percent of global economic output. If the TPP survives Congress, USDA estimates it would add about $8.5 billion to annual U.S. ag exports.