WASHINGTON – Late last week, the House Ways and Means Committee followed in the steps of the Senate Finance Committee, and produced its own trade promotion authority bill.
Under the constitution Congress regulates trade, but with TPA, it can delegate that power to the president instead – limiting its own authority to assure trading partners hard-won deals won’t be altered. With TPA, deals brokered by the executive branch cannot be amended, and have to pass Congress on an up-or-down vote.
Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley says he supports TPA, due to his belief that Congress, an institution of 535 people, is too cumbersome to effectively negotiate trade deals.
”It has to come to Congress,” says Grassley of the TPA process, “and we get a chance to pass it as law. And if we pass it as law, then we’re part of that free trade agreement. If we don’t pass it, then it obviously doesn’t go into effect. So, it’s quite appropriate for Congress to have the final say on it, because of that constitutional power of Congress to regulate interstate and foreign commerce.”
Grassley says both the House and Senate TPA bills are expected to meet significant Democrat opposition, due to labor groups‘ concerns that large trade deals like the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership will outsource American jobs.
”I can never understand why trade unions are against it,” Grassley said. “Let’s take John Deere [in] Waterloo, as an example. They export 20% to 25% of their tractors. So obviously, if we got a level playing field by getting the impediments in other countries to export our John Deere tractors, it’s going to create more jobs, and jobs that pay 15% above the national average.”
The recent action on TPA has occurred in relation to the twelve-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which USDA estimates would add about eight and a half billion dollars to annual U.S. agricultural exports if it survives Congress.
Mexican news agency EFE reports that some estimates place completion on a TPP deal as soon as late May.
To hear more about the challenge facing the new trade promotion authority bills, click the audio player above this story.