GAO: TPA must include more Congressional input
A Government Accountability Office report released Friday said the recently expired Trade Promotion Authority, under which the Bush Administration has pursued 17 free trade agreements since 2002, did not adequately integrate the input of congressional committees.
Under terms of the TPA, the administration must regularly consult with Congress and trade advisory committees. The GAO determined that though 1,605 consultations with congressional committee staff occurred from August 2002 through April 2007 'satisfaction with the consultations was mixed.'
'Almost all the congressional staff GAO contacted viewed the consultations as providing good information, but slightly more than half said that they did not provide opportunities for real input or influence,' the report summary said. 'These staff often said that they were not given sufficient time to provide meaningful input. The trade advisory committee chairs GAO contacted said that the U.S. (trade representative office) and managing agencies consulted with their committees fairly regularly, although process issues at times hindered some from functioning effectively. For example, about half said that the 30-day deadline for reporting on the likely impact of FTAs can be difficult to meet, and the ITC had a similar problem.'
Of the 17 FTAs pursued by the administration (involving 47 countries), six have been approved and are in force and four others have been concluded and are awaiting approval.
FTAs negotiated since TPA was passed account for 16 percent of U.S. foreign trade, but do not include FTAs approved prior to the passing of the TPA (including those with Mexico and Canada). Previously approved FTAs account for 27 percent of U.S. foreign trade, while 56 percent is not governed by any FTA.