renew the president’s trade promotion authority (TPA) has been introduced in Congress, the battle
lines have been drawn with textile and apparel importers predictably on one side and domestic
manufacturers on the other. And the chairmen of the House and Senate committees that have
jurisdiction over trade matters are expressing their reservations about granting the authority in
its present form.
If it is not renewed, TPA — formerly known as “fast track” — will expire June 30. Under that
authority, the president can negotiate trade agreements that can only be voted up or down by
Congress without any amendments. Trade officials both here and abroad believe it would be
impossible to negotiate agreements without TPA, as Congress could pick apart any agreement with a
series of amendments.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.,
chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, issued a joint statement in which they called for
major changes in any TPA authorization in order to protect US workers and manufacturers through
better trade enforcement, congressional consultation, and labor and environmental provisions in
future trade agreements.
While describing fast track negotiating authority as “vital to US trade,” the congressional
leaders said it needs to be a stronger tool in protecting US interests. “I see reauthorization as
an opportunity to address Americans’ legitimate concerns on trade with more vigorous enforcement of
trade laws and agreements with greater congressional consultation so that we can fight for workers
and businesses back home,” Baucus said. Rangel added that “trade negotiating authority is a
valuable tool for the administration, but it requires a great deal of trust, and Congress must have
some key assurances before it is willing to extend this leverage.”
Obviously, the administration is not going to get a blank check if TPA is approved, and that
is anything but a sure thing.
The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), Arlington, Va., strongly supports
renewal of TPA, saying it is “extremely important to expedite free trade agreements and allow
negotiators to operate effectively.” AAFA President and CEO Kevin Burke said, “Complex
international trade agreements cannot be negotiated after the fact by the US Congress.” He added
that the President needs the authority “without further delay.”
Textile manufacturers and other US industries don’t like fast track, and they say it should
not be renewed.
Charging that TPA is a “blank check” Congress gives to the administration, Auggie Tantillo,
executive director of the Washington-based American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition (AMTAC),
said current trade policy has been a “fast track to massive manufacturing job losses.” He added: “
TPA is Congress’ way of passing the buck to avoid accountability. By stifling meaningful debate and
all amendments, TPA perverts the legislative process by effectively preventing negatively affected
industries and interests from airing their concerns in Congress.”
The US Business and Industry Council (USBIC) called for a moratorium on new trade agreements
until the US trade deficit is brought under control and “balance is restored to the world trading
system.” The Washington-based organization, which includes textile manufacturers, said when the
United States considers new trade agreements, they should be made “as the Constitution requires,”
with input from domestic interest through their elected representatives.
On the eve of introduction of the legislation, US Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab
issued a lengthy statement extolling the virtues of free trade. “In countries and regions
throughout the world, the United States’ global economic leadership continues to create more and
better jobs for Americans, achieve market gains for US exporters, generate economic growth and
development opportunities for our free trade partners and enhance choice and purchasing power for
US consumers, farmers and business.”
February 6, 2007