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American Shipper

Senate takes another shot at TPA vote

Democratic and Republican senators on Wednesday agreed to vote on legislation that would extend the president’s ability to negotiate trade deals with other countries.

   Democratic and Republican senators on Wednesday reached an agreement to vote on legislation that will extend the president’s authority to negotiate trade deals with other countries.
   Senate Democrats a day earlier halted the legislation from going to the floor for a vote, citing ongoing concerns for small businesses, human rights and environmental standards. Now it appears the trade promotion authority (TPA) legislation may have enough votes to pass the Senate when it goes to the floor for a vote, which is expected today.
   “The plan I’m about to offer will follow the regular order on the trade bill, while also allowing senators the opportunity to take votes on the customs and preferences bills – in a way that will not imperil the increased American exports and American trade jobs we need,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in a statement. “We would then turn to the trade bill with TPA and TAA (trade adjustment assistance) as the base bill, and open the floor to amendments as I’ve suggested all week. It’s reasonable.”
   “Through the cooperation of the majority leader and the Minority Leader [Harry Reid, D-Nev.], trade enforcement will be the first bill to be debated, and in doing so, it drives homes yesterday’s message from 13 pro-trade Democrats who said robust enforcement of our trade law is a prerequisite to a modern trade policy,” said Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
   Several weeks ago, the Senate Finance Committee passed a bipartisan package of four bills, which Wyden said “would throw out the 1990s NAFTA playbook on trade.” The first is TPA, which allows the president to negotiate overseas trade agreements that U.S. lawmakers may only vote on up or down, without making amendments. Another bill includes trade adjustment assistance for workers who are displaced by trade agreements. The third bill covers trade enforcement, such as tackling China’s alleged currency manipulation for the benefit of its exports, and the fourth renews trade preference programs, such as the Generalized System of Preferences. 
   “The trade enforcement bill is a jobs bill, and it’s a cornerstone of the new approach to trade that will reject the status quo. As the president said – to his credit – during the State of the Union address, ‘past trade deals haven’t always lived up to the hype.’ And I believe a lot of that can be blamed on sub-par enforcement. That’s because the same old enforcement tools from the NAFTA-era and decades prior aren’t getting the job done in 2015,” Wyden said.
   President Obama seeks to wrap up the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement with 11 Pacific Rim countries, and has been without trade promotion authority for much of his administration. U.S. diplomats are also negotiating the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union, as well as a trade services agreement through the World Trade Organization. TPA is considered an essential tool for convincing other nations that any agreement won’t be undermined by U.S. legislators.
   “It’s critical that we vote on enhanced trade enforcement before Congress gives up its ability to amend the largest trade deal ever negotiated,” Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said, referring to TPP. “By voting on increased trade enforcement before fast track authority, we can give American workers and American manufacturers a fighting chance. We can crack down on countries that manipulate their currency to give their exports a price advantage over American-made products. We can give the steel industry and others new tools to fight back when foreign imports undercut their business. And we can put an end to the unacceptable practice of importing certain products made with forced or child labor.
   “But if we do these bills separately, rather than as a package, the president should veto the fast track bill if he has not yet signed the trade enforcement legislation,” Brown added.

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