Aaron Fobes, Julia Lawless (202)224-4515
Hatch Calls on Senate to Pass Bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority that Gives Congress and the American People a Voice on Trade
In speech on Senate Floor, Utah Republican says, “The TPA bill we’re debating now contains the clearest articulation of Congressional trade priorities in our nation’s history, including nearly 150 ambitious, high-standard negotiating objectives, most of them designed to break down barriers that American exporters face in the 21st century economy.”
WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor today, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) welcomed floor debate of the bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 and called on Congress to enhance its voice in trade negotiations by passing the bill on a bipartisan basis.
“Our TPA bill expands Congressional engagement in ongoing and future trade negotiations by ensuring that members can review proposals and discuss them with our trade negotiators. The bill also creates new Congressional oversight mechanisms to ensure that the administration closely adheres to the objectives set by Congress, including a new procedure that Congress can employ if our trade negotiators fail to consult or make progress toward meeting the negotiating objectives,” Hatch said.
Chairman Hatch reiterated his support for seeing the bill become law while welcoming an open debate process.
“While I’m pleased – very pleased, in fact – that we’ve made it this far on TPA, I won’t be satisfied until we have a bill on the President’s desk,” Hatch continued. “As I’ve stated, we need to have a fair and open debate on these issues. I’m committed to hearing arguments, considering amendments, and demonstrating how a functioning U.S. Senate is supposed to operate. I hope my colleagues will join me in that type of discussion.”
The complete speech, as prepared for delivery, is below:
Mr. President, finally and at long last, the Senate has begun its debate of the Bipartisan Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015, a bipartisan, bicameral bill to renew Trade Promotion Authority, or TPA. As one of the authors of this legislation, I am glad that we’ve gotten to this point and look forward to a spirited and fulsome debate here on the floor.
This legislation has been in the works for a long time.
As we all know, the previous iteration of TPA expired in 2007. And, that version was originally enacted in 2002. In other words, it’s been 13 years since Congress seriously considered legislation to renew TPA. I think it’s safe to say that, at least for those who focus on trade policy, the debate and discussion surrounding what would go into the next TPA bill has been going on that entire time.
For me, while I’ve long been a supporter of free trade and TPA, the real work on this bill began in earnest in the spring of 2013. I worked for the better part of a year with the former Chairmen Max Baucus and Dave Camp on legislation to renew TPA for a 21st Century economy. We introduced our bill – which, in many ways, formed the basis of the legislation we’re debating now – in January of last year.
This year, when I became Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, I sought to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make improvements to the bill in order to broaden its support. Most notably, I worked closely with my colleagues on the Finance Committee and with Chairman Paul Ryan of the House Ways and Means Committee to craft an improved TPA bill.
I think we were successful.
Indeed, we were able to build upon the efforts of the last Congress to make important changes that will enhance Congress’s role in crafting our trade policy and improve overall transparency and accountability. We introduced our bill on April 15 and, on April 22, the Finance Committee reported the bill, along with a few other important trade bills you may have heard about.
The vote on our TPA bill was 20 to six.
The last time the Senate Finance Committee reported a TPA bill to the Senate floor was 1988. While we’ve passed other TPA bills in the nearly three decades since that time, this is the first to go through regular order, including a full committee process and original consideration here on the floor.
I want to thank my colleagues in both the House and Senate who have worked with me to get us to this point. The fact that we’re now here on the floor debating this bill is, in and of itself, a milestone. In fact, I’d call it historic.
But, let’s not fool ourselves. We still have a long way to go.
So, let’s talk about our bill for just a moment.
I’d like to begin by addressing the most basic question: What is TPA?
Put simply, TPA is the most important tool Congress has to advance our nation’s trade agenda. Specifically, TPA represents a compact between the Senate, the House, and the administration. Under this arrangement, the administration agrees to pursue objectives specified by Congress and consult with Congress as it negotiates trade agreements. In return, both the House and Senate agree to allow for time-specific consideration of trade agreements without amendments.
This ensures that Congress leads the way in setting our nation’s trade agenda while giving our trade negotiators in the administration the tools necessary to reach high-standard trade agreements.
Why is this compact important? There are a number of reasons, but, for now, I’ll just focus on two.
First, the TPA compact ensures that Congress has a voice is setting trade priorities before a trade agreement is finalized. By setting clear negotiating objectives in a TPA bill, Congress is able to specify what a potential trade agreement must contain in order to gain passage.
Second, the compact allows our trade negotiators to deliver on an agreement.
As our negotiators work with our trading partners on trade agreements, they need to be able to give assurance that the deal they sign will be the one Congress votes on. They cannot do that without TPA.
In a sense, without TPA, our trading partners are negotiating, not only with the professionals at USTR, but also with all 535 members of Congress, whose views and priorities may be unknown or unknowable. Under this scenario, our partners will not put their best offers on the table because they will have no guarantees that the agreement they reach will remain intact once it goes through Congress.
In short, Mr. President, TPA is essential both for the conclusion and passage of strong trade agreements.
Now, I’d like to take a few minutes to talk about some of the specifics of our bill.
First of all, our TPA bill updates the Congressional negotiating objectives to focus trade agreements on setting fair rules and tearing down barriers to trade.
In fact, the TPA bill we’re debating now contains the clearest articulation of Congressional trade priorities in our nation’s history, including nearly 150 ambitious, high-standard negotiating objectives, most of them designed to break down barriers that American exporters face in the 21st century economy.
Under the bill, future trade agreements must include strong international rules to counter unfair trade practices, including those related to currency, digital piracy, cross-border data flows, cyber-theft of trade secrets, localization barriers, non-scientific sanitary and phyto-sanitary practices, state-owned enterprises, and labor and environment policies.
Our bill also requires that U.S. trade agreements reflect a standard of intellectual property rights protection similar to that found in U.S. law. We also call for an end to the theft of U.S. intellectual property by foreign governments, including piracy and the theft of trade secrets, and for the elimination of measures that require U.S. companies to locate their intellectual property abroad in return for market access.
Finally, our TPA bill expands Congressional engagement in ongoing and future trade negotiations by ensuring that members can review proposals and discuss them with our trade negotiators. The bill also creates new Congressional oversight mechanisms to ensure that the administration closely adheres to the objectives set by Congress, including a new procedure that Congress can employ if our trade negotiators fail to consult or make progress toward meeting the negotiating objectives.
As you can see, Mr. President, this bill addresses the needs of our modern economy. And, it fully takes into account the concerns expressed by members of Congress and the American public about the trade negotiating process.
The legislation before us also contains Finance Committee’s bill to reauthorize Trade Adjustment Assistance, or TAA. I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m not TAA’s biggest fan. I oppose the program in general and voted against the TAA bill in committee.
But, from the outset of this process, it was clear to us on the Republican side that we would have to swallow hard and allow TAA to pass in order to get TPA across the finish line. Toward that end, we’ve joined the two bills together here on the floor.
In short, this is a good bill, one that members of both parties should be able to support.
As I mentioned, the vote in the Finance Committee in favor our TPA bill was 20 to six. I hope that we’ll be able to get a similar bipartisan result here on the floor. I think we can.
To conclude, I just want to make it clear that I’m not naïve. I’m well aware that not everyone agrees with me on these issues. There are some – including a few of our colleagues here in the Senate – who oppose what we’re trying to do with this legislation. They oppose TPA and virtually all free trade agreements. In essence, though they’ll usually deny it, they oppose trade in general.
Of course, I respect the views of my colleagues on these matters as well as any others on which we happen to disagree. But, let’s be clear about a few things.
When you oppose TPA and trade agreements, you stand against the creation of new, high-paying jobs for American workers.
You stand against American farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, and the workers they employ who need access to foreign markets.
And, you stand against the advancement of American values and interests on the world stage.
I’ll have more to say here on floor about these issues in the coming days about how TPA and trade agreements can help small businesses and agriculture, and how important our trade policies are to our national security. I plan to do all I can to make the case that U.S. trade with foreign countries is a good thing and this legislation represents our best opportunity to advance a trade agenda that works for America.
For now, I’ll just say, once again, that while I’m pleased – very pleased, in fact – that we’ve made it this far on TPA, I won’t be satisfied until we have a bill on the President’s desk.
As I’ve stated, we need to have a fair and open debate on these issues. I’m committed to hearing arguments, considering amendments, and demonstrating how a functioning U.S. Senate is supposed to operate. I hope my colleagues will join me in that type of discussion.
With that, Mr. President, I yield the floor.
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