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US Trade Representative skips Senate hearing

To hear Brandon’s World of Agriculture report on TPA progress in Congress, click here.

WASHINGTON, January 17 – At a recent Senate Finance Committee hearing discussing the renewal of trade promotion authority, which would allow the President to broker trade deals which Congress could pass or reject, but not amend, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman was a no show.

“I just want to take a moment to express my sincere disappointment that the US Trade Representative did not accept our invitation to testify at this hearing today,” remarked top panel Republican Orrin Hatch. “If the Administration does not get more involved in this effort to pass trade negotiating authority, we’re not going to be successful, it’s just that simple. Put simply, this is not an issue where the President can lead from behind.”

Froman didn’t take a position for or against TPA at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing last July, saying only the Administration stood ready to work with Congress on a TPA bill.

Former USDA Trade Adviser Paul Drazek said recently he thinks the Administration would prefer to not have its hands tied in Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.

The Senate bill, called the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014, requires future deals address currency value management, limits on grain boards and would allow any member of Congress to attend trade negotiations.

As Congress moves toward granting the President TPA, the Congressional Research Service has released a report examining the issue.

To read the CRS report, titled “Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) and the Role of Congress in Trade Policy,” click here.

Among the possible options CRS lays out for Members of Congress are a brief extension of TPA just long enough to pass a deal like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or even a two-tier permanent TPA deal which requires the President to submit negotiation objectives before future trade talks begin.