Key Lawmakers Strike Deal on Trade

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Ranking Member of the House Ways and Means Committee Congressman Dave Camp (L) speaks during a House Ways and Means Committee markup hearing on The Currency Reform for Fair Trade Acton September 24, 2010 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The bill would amend the Tariff Act of 1930 to increase the Department of Commerce's power to impose duties on China over its currency under-valuation. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
National Journal
Michael Catalini
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Michael Catalini
Jan. 9, 2014, 9 a.m.

Con­gres­sion­al tax writers have struck a bi­par­tis­an, bicam­er­al deal to al­low so-called fast-track trade-pro­mo­tion au­thor­ity, ad­van­cing a White House pri­or­ity and cast­ing the meas­ure as job-cre­at­ing le­gis­la­tion.

The deal, backed by Ways and Means Com­mit­tee Chair­man Dave Camp, R-Mich., Fin­ance Com­mit­tee Chair­man Max Baucus, D-Mont., and rank­ing Re­pub­lic­an Sen. Or­rin Hatch, R-Utah, aims to make it easi­er for the ad­min­is­tra­tion to broker in­ter­na­tion­al trade agree­ments by pre­vent­ing Con­gress from rene­go­ti­at­ing them. It also es­tab­lishes con­gres­sion­al trade ob­ject­ives and ob­liges the White House to fol­low them, a key part of per­suad­ing law­makers to back the le­gis­la­tion.

“This is our op­por­tun­ity to tell the ad­min­is­tra­tion — and our trad­ing part­ners — what Con­gress’s ne­go­ti­at­ing pri­or­it­ies are,” Baucus said in a state­ment.

The le­gis­la­tion, known as TPA-14, will make it pos­sible to con­clude dozens of trade ne­go­ti­ations, in­clud­ing 11 deals in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion and 28 in the European Uni­on, ac­cord­ing to a sum­mary of the meas­ure provided by com­mit­tee staff. The meas­ure also in­cludes a pro­vi­sion aimed at dir­ect­ing trade part­ners not to ma­nip­u­late ex­change rates.

Im­port­antly, from a con­gres­sion­al view­point, the meas­ure dir­ects the White House to pur­sue con­gres­sion­ally man­dated pri­or­it­ies.

“This le­gis­la­tion will en­sure that the ad­min­is­tra­tion is fol­low­ing the rules and ne­go­ti­at­ing ob­ject­ives that Con­gress has set,” Camp said in a state­ment.

The pre­vi­ous trade-pro­mo­tion au­thor­ity ex­pired in 2007, but had been writ­ten in 2002. Tax writers had said the dec­ade-long gap between le­gis­la­tion and the in­flux of new­er mem­bers who were skep­tic­al of TPA made it chal­len­ging to build sup­port.

In­deed, House Demo­crats re­main skep­tic­al. Rep. Charles Ran­gel, D-N.Y., a former chair­man of the Ways and Means com­mit­tee and a cur­rent mem­ber, said late last year that Demo­crats were not be­ing in­volved in talks over TPA. Not­ably, the name of the top Ways and Means Demo­crat, Sander Lev­in of Michigan, was ab­sent from the news re­lease an­noun­cing the deal.

“The ef­fort by Sen­at­or Baucus, Rep­res­ent­at­ive Camp, and Sen­at­or Hatch has fallen far short of ad­equately re­pla­cing the failed 2002 TPA mod­el,” Lev­in said in a state­ment.

House Demo­crats as­sailed the le­gis­la­tion and ar­gued that it would be bad for the U.S. eco­nomy, send­ing jobs over­seas.

“In­stead of pur­su­ing the same failed trade policies, we should sup­port Amer­ic­an work­ers by mak­ing the ne­ces­sary in­vest­ments to com­pete in today’s glob­al eco­nomy,” wrote Reps. Rosa De­Lauro, D-Conn., Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., and George Miller, D-Cal­if.

The White House sup­ports the deal. Press sec­ret­ary Jay Car­ney said the ad­min­is­tra­tion wel­comes the le­gis­la­tion, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment.

The le­gis­la­tion is ex­pec­ted to be in­tro­duced first in the House, ac­cord­ing to aides. The deal was de­scribed as a “very, very high pri­or­ity” for the chair­men and lead­er­ship, the aides said.

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