April 21,2015

Press Contact:

Aaron Fobes, Julia Lawless (202) 224-4515

A Trade Bill to Keep Congress in the Driver’s Seat

Bipartisan, Bicameral Trade Promotion Authority Preserves U.S. Sovereignty

This week, the Senate Finance Committee will consider the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015), bipartisan, bicameral legislation to renew Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).

To help America bring home the strongest possible trade agreements that will boost American exports and benefit American workers, farmers, ranchers, and job creators, this legislation keeps Congress in the driver’s seat and for the first time makes clear that trade agreements cannot and will not change U.S. law without congressional action.

Even more, no trade agreement can go into force without final congressional approval.

As the CATO Institute noted today, “This is new to TPA but not at all new to U.S. trade policy.  U.S. trade agreements have always contained assurances that the treaty’s implementing legislation does not create private rights of action.  You cannot sue the U.S. government in U.S. court for violating its trade obligations.”

Bottom line: The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 reaffirms that Congress—and only Congress—can change U.S. law.

Here’s what the bill does:

Protects U.S. Sovereignty:

  • Provides that any provision of a trade agreement inconsistent with U.S. federal or State law will have no effect.
  • Confirms that U.S. federal and State law prevail in the event of a conflict with a trade agreement.
  • Affirms that a trade agreement cannot prevent the United States or the States from changing law in the future.
  • Confirms that the Administration cannot unilaterally change U.S. law.

Maintains Congressional Prerogatives:

  • Congress can disqualify agreements from eligibility for special procedures through procedural disapproval resolution process.
  • If the House Committee on Ways and Means or the Senate Finance Committee determines that the President has not met the conditions prescribed by TPA, either Committee would trigger a Consultation and Compliance Resolution.
  • This new mechanism would remove expedited procedures for a trade agreement if, in the judgment of either the House or Senate, that agreement does not meet the requirements of TPA.
  • Each House of Congress retains the right to withdraw TPA through exercise of its normal rulemaking authority.

Tightens Scope of Authority:

  • TPA includes provisions to ensure that implementing bills include “only such provisions as are strictly necessary or appropriate to implement” trade agreements.
  • Any commitments that are not disclosed to the Congress before an implementing bill is introduced are not to be considered part of the Agreement approved by Congress and have no force of law.
  • TPA clarifies that agreements must be concluded within the TPA time frame and that substantial modifications or additions after that date are not eligible for approval under TPA.

More Robust Consultation & Access to Information:

  • The Administration must consult closely with Congress before, during, and after the negotiations.
  • Statutorily require the Administration to publish detailed and comprehensive summaries of the specific objectives that trade negotiators are seeking in trade negotiations, and keep such summaries updated as negotiations continue.
  • The Administration is required, throughout the negotiations and immediately prior to initialing the agreement, to consult with Congress.
  • Establishes, for the first time in law, that the text of a completed trade agreement must be public for at least 60 days before the President signs it.