Aaron Fobes, Julia Lawless (202) 224-4515
Hatch Makes Final Push to Move Bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority Across the Finish Line
In a speech on the Senate floor Utah Senator says, “This is, I believe, the most important bill we’ll pass in the Senate this year. It will help reassert Congress’ role over U.S. trade negotiations and reestablish the United States as a strong player in international trade.”
WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor today, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) reiterated his support for bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation and called on Congress to swiftly advance a comprehensive bipartisan trade agenda across the finish line.
“This bill will help farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, and entrepreneurs throughout our country get better access to foreign markets and allow them to compete on a level playing field, Hatch said. “This bill will help give these job creators – and the workers they employ – greater opportunities to grow their businesses which will help create a healthier American economy.”
Hatch went on to press the Senate to pass the Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015, a bill that contains the Generalized System of Preferences, or GSP; the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA; and tariff preferences for Haiti. And, called on his colleagues to move quickly on the conference for the bipartisan customs bill.
“Back in April, the Senate Finance Committee reported four separate trade bills. All of these bills have enjoyed bipartisan support and are priorities for many members of Congress. I committed to doing all I can to get all of these bills through Congress and onto the President’s desk,” said Hatch. “While the path has taken some unexpected turns, I think the light at the end of the tunnel is, at this point, very visible. I think they speak well of what Congress is able to do when members work together to address important issues and solve real problems.”
The complete speech, as prepared for delivery, is below:
Mr. President, we are now one vote away from final passage of our bill to renew Trade Promotion Authority. One more vote, and we can finally, and at long last, send this important bill to the President’s desk.
That vote is expected to take place later today.
This is a critical day for our country. In fact, I’d call it a historic day.
It’s taken us a while to get here – longer than many of us would have liked. But we all know anything worth doing takes effort, and believe me, this bill has been worth the effort.
This is, I believe, the most important bill we’ll pass in the Senate this year. It will help reassert Congress’ role over U.S. trade negotiations and reestablish the United States as a strong player in international trade.
Renewing TPA has been a top priority for me for many years, and, as Chairman of the Finance Committee, I am pleased that – with the help of Ranking Member Wyden – we’ve been able to deliver a robust and bipartisan bill. It’s also been a high priority for the Senate Majority Leader and, thanks to his strong support and leadership, we’re one step away from completing this important task.
This bill will help farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, and entrepreneurs throughout our country get better access to foreign markets and allow them to compete on a level playing field. This bill will help give these job creators – and the workers they employ – greater opportunities to grow their businesses which will help create a healthier American economy.
The business and agricultural communities understand the importance of strong trade agreements. That is why they came together in strong support of this important legislation. We’ve heard from all them throughout this debate and I appreciate their enthusiasm and support.
This has, from the outset, been a bipartisan effort and I’m glad it has remained that way. Throughout this entire debate -- here in the Senate, over the House, and here in the Senate again – we’ve been able to maintain a bipartisan coalition in support of TPA, fair trade, and expanded market access for U.S. exporters.
This is no small feat, Mr. President. And, I’m appreciative of everyone who worked so hard to make this possible.
With this final vote, we can complete the work that we began so many years ago.
But let’s be clear.
Passing TPA is not the end of the story. It is just the beginning.
As Chairman of the Finance Committee I intend to remain vigilant in our oversight as the administration pursues the negotiating objectives that Congress has set with this legislation. And, if they fall short, I will be among the first to hold them accountable.
But that is for another day. Today, I urge my colleagues to help us finalize this historic achievement and join me in voting in favor of this bipartisan TPA bill. If the vote goes the way I think it will, today will remembered as a good day for the Senate, the President, and the American people.
Mr. President, once we vote to pass TPA, we will then vote on the motion to invoke cloture on the Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015.
This bill will reauthorize and improve three of our trade preference programs: the Generalized System of Preferences, or GSP; the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA; and tariff preferences for Haiti.
I want to take some time to reiterate why each of these programs is important.
First, the GSP promotes trade with developing nations by providing duty-free tariff treatment of certain products originating in those countries. The program helps beneficiary countries advance their economic development and move toward more open economies. It also helps manufacturers and importers in the U.S. receive inputs and raw materials at a lower cost.
Approximately three-quarters of U.S. imports under the GSP are raw materials, parts and components, or machinery and equipment used by U.S. companies to manufacture goods here at home.
The program expired in 2013. As a result, businesses that would typically benefit from this program have had to deal with high tariffs on these imports for the last two years. Last year alone, American companies paid over $600 million in tariffs that would otherwise have been eliminated with the GSP in place.
Once we finally pass this bill, we will take a long-overdue step toward solving these problems.
The preferences bill also includes a long-term renewal of the AGOA program, which lowers U.S. tariffs on the exports of qualified Sub-Saharan African countries, encouraging them to further develop their economies.
Since AGOA was enacted in 2000, trade with beneficiary countries has more than tripled, with U.S. direct investment in beneficiary countries growing more than six-fold during that time. The program has also helped create more than a million jobs in those countries.
The AGOA authorization in this preferences bill will improve on this past success.
Some of our colleagues here in Congress have voiced concerns about the AGOA program and the failure of some beneficiary countries to live up to their commitments. I share many of these concerns and we tried to address them with this bill.
Most notably, the bill creates a mechanism under the AGOA program to allow for benefits to be scaled back if a country is found to not be making good faith progress on eligibility criteria. We expect the administration to use this new tool aggressively.
Finally, the preferences bill will also extend preferential access to the U.S. market for Haiti.
As we all know, Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. The Haiti preference programs support the creation of jobs and stability in a country dealing with debilitating poverty and unemployment. I hope this extension will encourage continued economic development and democracy in Haiti.
Mr. President, it’s easy to see why these programs have all received bipartisan support. I expect that support to continue.
In addition to these preferences program, the bill we’ll be voting on includes legislation introduced by Senators Portman and Brown to strengthen the enforcement and administration of our anti-dumping and countervailing duty laws.
As I have noted in the past, anti-dumping and countervailing duty laws are among the most important trade tools we have to protect U.S. companies from unfair foreign trade practices. A number of Utah companies benefit from these laws, which allow them to compete against imports that unfairly benefit from support from foreign governments.
I’m pleased we were able to include this legislation in the preferences bill.
Finally, also included in this bill is an extension of the Trade Adjustment Assistance, or TAA, program. I think I’ve said enough about my opposition to this program here on the floor over the past several weeks. I won’t delve too deeply into that issue here.
However, I do understand that, for many of my colleagues who want to support TPA and free trade, passage of TAA is a prerequisite. From the outset of this debate over Trade Promotion Authority, I’ve committed to my colleagues to working to ensure that both TAA and TPA move on parallel tracks. I plan to make good on this commitment.
That is why, despite my misgivings about TAA, and with the entire picture in view, I plan to vote for this latest version of the trade preferences bill.
Mr. President, back in April, the Senate Finance Committee reported four separate trade bills. All of these bills have enjoyed bipartisan support and are priorities for many members of Congress. I committed to doing all I can to get all of these bills through Congress and onto the President’s desk.
While the path has taken some unexpected turns, I think the light at the end of the tunnel is, at this point, very visible.
Once again, we will shortly be voting to pass our TPA bill and send it to the President.
Shortly thereafter, I expect that we’ll pass our trade preferences bill, which includes TAA, and send it to the House, where I think it will pass without much difficulty.
Then, we expect to appoint conferees on the customs bill, which will get us closer to the finish line on that important legislation.
Needless to say, I’m pleased with these developments, Mr. President. I think they speak well of what Congress is able to do when members work together to address important issues and solve real problems.
Once again, I want to thank my colleagues for working with us on the bipartisan effort to update and improve U.S. trade policy.
Most notably, I want to once again thank Senator Wyden for his assistance and support throughout this effort and on all of these trade bills. He’s been a great partner and deserves much of the credit for getting us this far.
I also want to thank our distinguished Majority Leader for his unwavering support, even in the most difficult times.
I also need to thank Chairman Ryan of the House Ways and Means Committee, who has been a co-author and a key partner in this endeavor. And, of course, I want thank Speaker Boehner and the House Republican leadership for their efforts in getting us through all the twists and turns we’ve had to take to get to this point.
And, of course, we need to give credit to President Obama and Ambassador Froman for their work in building and maintaining a coalition of support for this entire undertaking.
Ultimately, Mr. President, I need thank everyone who has supported our work on these bills – here in the Senate, over the House, in the administration, and elsewhere – but that list is too long for me to go through here on the floor. I just hope that everyone who had a hand in today’s success knows that I’m grateful for all the work they put in.
I hope we can build on this success, Mr. President, and that we can find more ways to work together to help the American people and solve our nation’s problems. I can say, without reservation, that I look forward to the bipartisan challenges that lie ahead.
With that, I yield the floor.
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