Hatch Pushes for Senate Action on Bill to Help Boost Job-Creating Trade Pacts
In Speech Utah Senator Says, “Republicans stand ready to work with President Obama on these issues and to help these trade negotiations succeed. For the sake of our country and our economy, I sincerely hope my Democratic colleagues here in the Senate are willing to do the same.”
WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor today, Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) outlined the need for Congress to act on job-creating Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation and called on Senate Democrats to work with Republicans to enact the measure into law.
“That is why every president since FDR has sought Trade Promotion Authority. No economically significant trade agreement has ever been negotiated by any administration and approved by Congress without it,” said Hatch. “Put simply, if Congress does not renew TPA, the TPP negotiations and those with the European Union will almost certainly fail. That is why it is so disconcerting to me to see how some of my colleagues across the aisle have responded to President Obama’s call for TPA renewal.”
Hatch continued, “My colleagues on the other side of the aisle have a choice. They can either work with Republicans to pass our bill and empower our country to complete these important trade agreements, or they can throw up more roadblocks and cast more uncertainty on the President’s trade agenda. Republicans stand ready to work with President Obama on these issues and to help these trade negotiations succeed. For the sake of our country and our economy, I sincerely hope my Democratic colleagues here in the Senate are willing to do the same.”
A longtime advocate of breaking down trade barriers, Hatch has long supported initiatives to enhance America’s competitiveness and increase access to new international markets. Last month, Hatch along with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) introduced the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014 to renew TPA to help better deliver trade agreements that boost U.S. exports and create American jobs.
Below are Hatch’s full remarks delivered on the Senate floor today:
I’d like to take just a few minutes to talk about our nation’s international trade policy. Specifically, I want to discuss efforts to renew Trade Promotion Authority, or TPA.
The most recent authorization of TPA expired nearly seven years ago. Since that time, Republicans have, by and large, expressed support for renewing it.
In August 2010, the U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk testified that the Obama Administration needed TPA to conclude ongoing trade negotiations. However, after that time, little was done to move the ball forward on renewing TPA.
So, in September 2011, Minority Leader McConnell and I offered an amendment on the Senate floor to renew Trade Promotion Authority for President Obama. Unfortunately, despite strong support from the Republican Caucus, a number of Democratic Senators actively opposed our efforts and it received virtually no Democratic support. As a result, our efforts failed.
In March 2013 then acting-USTR Marantis again expressed the Administration’s support for renewing TPA and pledged to work with Congress to get it done. In June 2013, USTR Michael Forman, during testimony before the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, formally requested on behalf of President Obama that Congress renew TPA.
Throughout most of 2013, I worked with Chairman Baucus and Chairman Camp of the House Ways and Means Committee to craft a bipartisan bill to renew TPA, one that could pass through both the House and the Senate.
We introduced our bill in January.
Last week in his State of the Union address, President Obama asked Congress to pass TPA legislation so that his administration could complete negotiations on two very ambitious trade agreements.
While I thought President Obama could have spoken more forcefully on the matter, his call for TPA renewal was clear and unambiguous.
Yet, so far, the call appears to be going unheeded among Democrats in the Senate.
Why is TPA so important?
I think some additional context is necessary here.
The administration is currently in the midst of negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, an Asia-Pacific trade agreement that is currently being negotiated between the United States and twelve other countries, including some of the world’s largest economies, such as Japan, Canada, and Mexico.
The Asia-Pacific region represents more than forty percent of the world’s trade. And, as a group, TPP countries represent the largest goods and services export market for the United States.
On the other side of the world, the U.S. is negotiating a bilateral trade agreement with the twenty-eight countries of the European Union.
The United States and the EU generate over half of the world’s economic output.
Total goods trade alone between the U.S. and EU amounts to over one trillion dollars a year.
Investment flows represent another three-hundred billion dollars a year.
Together, these two trade agreements have the potential to greatly expand access for U.S. products into foreign markets around the world. Most importantly, they would help to grow our economy and create jobs here at home.
These two separate trade negotiations represent what is the most ambitious trade agenda in our nation’s recent history. While everyone knows that I’m a pretty outspoken critic of the Obama Administration, I believe they deserve credit on this front.
But, if these negotiations are going to succeed, Congress must approve TPA. Because of the unique structure of our government, our country needs TPA.
Our trading partners will not put their best deal on the table unless they know the United States can deliver on what we promise.
TPA empowers our trade negotiators to conclude agreements and provides a path for passage in Congress.
That is why every president since FDR has sought Trade Promotion Authority. No economically significant trade agreement has ever been negotiated by any administration and approved by Congress without it.
Put simply, if Congress does not renew TPA, the TPP negotiations and those with the European Union will almost certainly fail. That is why it is so disconcerting to me to see how some of my colleagues across the aisle have responded to President Obama’s call for TPA renewal.
TPA is one of the few issues where both parties can and should be able work together to achieve a common goal. I know that I, along with my Republican colleagues, stand ready and willing to work with the administration to approve TPA as soon as possible.
I believe the bipartisan bill Chairman Baucus and I recently introduced to renew TPA would receive strong bipartisan support in the Senate if it were allowed to come up for a vote.
Indeed, I am confident that the vast majority of my colleagues would join me in supporting the bill.
The problem is, Republicans are not in the majority in the Senate. It is the Democrats that control the agenda. And, unfortunately, the President’s call to renew TPA does not appear to be a priority for them.
The question is: Will Senate Democrats work with the President on this issue?
I don’t know the answer to that question. But, I have to say that things don’t look good.
Instead of robust support for the President and his trade agenda, the response we’ve seen from Democrats has ranged from awkward silence on TPA to outright hostility.
Needless to say, I’m extremely disappointed by this.
Mr. President, the issue here is fairly simple.
If we want to grow our economy through trade, the Congress must approve TPA and do so soon.
The President can play a key role here. By forcefully advocating for TPA renewal, he can help turn some of the skeptics in his party around.
Recently, the Financial Times published a powerful editorial which outlined the need for TPA and the role the President must play for TPA to succeed. According to the editorial:
“Twenty years ago, President Bill Clinton pulled out all the stops to push through approval of the controversial North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada. He was able to squeak through a narrow victory by deft lobbying of lawmakers and a willingness to make a strong case for globalization to the American public. Mr. Obama is lagging behind his predecessor on both counts. The case for TTIP and TPP are both strong. The time for Mr. Obama to make those arguments has arrived. He has every incentive to succeed. Failure to secure [TPA] would be a grievous blow to his presidency”
Now, I understand that there are some powerful political forces that lead some of my friends on the other side of the aisle to oppose international trade. However, let’s be clear, if we fail to approve TPA, we will be doing our nation and our economy a great disservice.
International trade is a good thing for our country. It is one of the few tools Congress has to grow our economy that does not add to the federal deficit.
Mr. President, as I mentioned, Senator Baucus and I, along with Chairman Camp, have negotiated and introduced a bipartisan, bicameral TPA bill. It is, in my opinion, the only TPA bill that stands a chance of getting passed in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
My colleagues on the other side of the aisle have a choice. They can either work with Republicans to pass our bill and empower our country to complete these important trade agreements, or they can throw up more roadblocks and cast more uncertainty on the President’s trade agenda.
As I stated, Republicans stand ready to work with President Obama on these issues and to help these trade negotiations succeed. For the sake of our country and our economy, I sincerely hope my Democratic colleagues here in the Senate are willing to do the same.