May 21,2015

Press Contact:

Aaron Fobes, Julia Lawlesss (202)224-4515

Congress Decides Whether New Countries Can Join a Trade Pact

Trade Promotion Authority Affirms Only Congress Can Change U.S. Law

Many international free trade agreements (FTAs), including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), contain provisions that allow trade partners to review the progress of an agreement to see how it’s working and whether it should be updated.  That includes the opportunity to add new parties to a trade agreement. 

But with Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), the constitutional right of Congress to approve or disapprove any changes is reaffirmed. 

Meaning, for an existing free trade agreement to take effect with a new country, Congress would have to approve the action and implement the necessary changes to U.S. law.

What’s more, TPA enhances Congress’ role in this process by setting out detailed consultation and reporting requirements the President must follow before entering into negotiations with any country.  

TPA also requires that the President take into account all of the congressional negotiating objectives before commencing negotiations with any country, even if that country wants to join an existing FTA.

If the President does not follow these procedures, Congress can strip TPA from any agreement with that country.

Like past agreements, TPP makes clear that any decision to change the rules in the future would have to be reviewed and agreed to under the domestic legal procedures of each country. In the United States, that means a change would have to be approved by Congress.

In other words, TPA reaffirms that Congress always has the final say on any changes to U.S. law before OR after a trade deal becomes law.