Obama Administration Committed to Fast-Track Trade Authority
Ben Weyl | March 19, 2013 | CQ News
The Obama administration renewed its commitment Tuesday to seek fast-track trade authority from Congress and key senators said they want to move forward quickly on advancing a measure considered critical to approving new trade agreements.
Acting United States Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis told the Senate Finance Committee the administration will pursue the trade authority with Congress as it presses negotiations toward the Trans-Pacific Partnership and a new trade pact with Europe.
“In support of our market-opening efforts, we look forward to beginning work with you on Trade Promotion Authority,” Marantis said.
Marantis did not give a time frame for an administration effort on what’s commonly called fast-track authority, a tool that clears a smoother path toward congressional approval of trade agreements. Businesses and many lawmakers have criticized the White House for giving trade a low priority in President Barack Obama’s first term, and senators urged Marantis to move quickly on the new authority.
“Given this ambitious agenda, the need for Trade Promotion Authority is clear,” said Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont. “TPA is a key negotiating tool and will help bring these trade agreements to a successful conclusion. It has been more than a decade since we renewed TPA and the world has changed in that time.”
Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the ranking member of the panel, said the administration needs to follow up on promises made by then-U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to engage with Congress.
“Now, the president’s 2013 Trade Policy Agenda says the president will work with Congress on Trade Promotion Authority,” Hatch said. “I take this promise as a sign of progress, but we have already wasted four years. TPA could have been done a long time ago. We can’t afford to waste any more time.”
Under fast-track rules, a trade deal must receive an up-or-down vote in both chambers, without amendment, within 90 days of being submitted by the White House. Congress has never rejected a trade agreement submitted under those procedures.
Congressional Republicans have long criticized Obama for not requesting a renewal of the authority, which expired in 2007, and business groups point to it as evidence of the administration’s limited ambitions for trade.