Aaron Fobes, Julia Lawless (202)224-4515
Hatch Says Administration Signing TPP Just the Beginning
In Speech on Senate Floor, Utah Republican Says “While there is a signing ceremony in New Zealand today, that is not the end of the process for the TPP in the United States. In fact, in many ways, we are really just beginning. In the coming months, we’ll have ample opportunity to debate the merits of each and every provision of this agreement and to consider how it will impact workers and job creators in our country and how it will affect the health of our economy.”
WASHINGTON – In a speech today, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) outlined the path forward for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), saying the Obama Administration must complete many more steps, as required by bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), before the trade agreement can be submitted to Congress for consideration. The speech was delivered before U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and representatives from 11 other countries were scheduled to sign the TPP agreement in New Zealand.
“No one should be under any illusions that, because the TPP is being signed today, an up or down vote on the agreement is imminent or that our oversight responsibilities are at an end,” Hatch said. “If history has taught us anything, it’s that this process can, and often does, take a very long time to complete. In fact, it’s not an exaggeration – or even all that remarkable – to say that it can take years to get an agreement through Congress AFTER it is signed.”
Hatch went on to promise a continued thorough evaluation of the trade agreement, saying there is a long history of rigorous Congressional review despite his shared goal of enacting a strong trade agreement as soon as possible.
“I’m quite certain the President wants to get a strong TPP agreement passed as soon as possible. I share that goal,” Hatch continued. “But, Congress has a history of taking the time necessary to consider and pass trade agreements, and the process set out under TPA demands that we do so. Despite a number of claims to the contrary, Congress does not rubber stamp trade agreements and we will not do so in this case.”
The complete speech, as prepared for delivery, is below:
Mr. President, later today – around 5:30 pm DC time – U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and representatives from 11 other countries will meet at a ceremony to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, agreement.
It’s no secret that the TPP agreement has the potential to do a lot of good for our country.
Taken as a whole, the twelve countries involved in this agreement had a combined GDP of $28.1 trillion in 2012 – nearly 40 percent of the world’s economy. In that same year, our goods and services exports to TPP countries supported an estimated 4 million jobs here in the U.S.
According to the International Monetary Fund, the world economy will grow by more than $20 trillion over the next five years, and nearly half of that growth will be in Asia. This agreement, if done right, will give the U.S. a distinct advantage in setting the standards for trade in this dynamic and strategically vital part of the world.
It’s also no secret that many stakeholders and members of Congress – including myself – have some doubts as to whether the agreement meets the high standards necessary to gain congressional approval. I’ve expressed those concerns many times here on the floor and elsewhere. I won’t go into any more detail about them today.
Instead, I want to talk about what will happen after the agreement is signed.
Even though there is a signing ceremony in New Zealand today, that is not the end of the process for TPP in the United States. In fact, in many ways, we are really just beginning.
In the coming months, we’ll have ample opportunity to debate the merits of each and every provision of this agreement and to consider how it will impact workers and job creators in our country and how it will affect the health of our economy.
Today, I will focus on the process by which Congress will consider and debate this agreement. I want to do so, in part, because I believe it is important that people – including members of Congress, the administration, stakeholders, and the media – have a full understanding of how this is going to work.
All too often, whenever a trade agreement is concluded or signed, the pundits, commentators, and lobbyists in this town immediately jump to one question: When will Congress vote on it?
I get asked that question almost every day.
And, while I have offered my own opinions and occasional speculation about when would be the best time to have the vote, the fact of the matter is that I don’t know exactly when the vote will take place – and no one else does either.
As we all know, last year, Congress passed and the President signed legislation renewing Trade Promotion Authority, or TPA, and setting out a series of timelines for Congress to consider and eventually vote on signed trade agreements. And, while I’m quite sure that interested parties and observers have already poured over the text of the TPA statute to add up all the statutory timelines and tried to calculate the exact date Congress will vote on the agreement, that exercise is unlikely to yield an accurate result.
Let me take a few minutes to explain why this is the case.
Under the TPA process, there are a number of milestones and checkpoints and associated timelines that begin at the outset of negotiations, long before any agreement is reached. With regard to TPP, we’ve gone through several of those already.
President Obama has determined – despite some concerns expressed by a number of sources – to take the next step in the process and sign the agreement.
Under the TPA statute, once an agreement is signed, the President has 60 days to provide Congress with a description of changes to U.S. law that he believes will be required under the deal. That is one of the more specific deadlines in the law – that 60 days is a maximum time period imposed on the administration, not on Congress.
So, assuming that the agreement does, in fact, get signed today, that information must arrive by no later than April 3rd.
On top of that, the statute requires the International Trade Commission, or ITC, to compile and submit a report on the likely economic effects of a signed trade agreement. That report must be completed within 105 days – another specific deadline – of the signing date. For a deal signed today, that deadline is May 18th.
Now, so far, I’ve just talked about deadlines, or maximum time periods for compiling and submitting specific documents and materials. But, once again, those maximum timelines are imposed on the administration, not on Congress.
After Congress receives the President’s description of legislative changes and the ITC’s economic analysis, the administration is required to provide to Congress the final text of the agreement and a detailed plan on how they intend to administer it.
The exact date and timing by which the administration has to submit the final text of the agreement is not set out in the statute. Under established practices, the timing of that submission, like other relevant decisions in this process, is generally determined after close collaboration and consultation with leaders in Congress.
The TPA statute is clear, however, that the final text of the agreement and the detailed administrative plan must be provided to Congress AT LEAST – and those two words are very important – at least 30 days before formally submitting legislation to implement the agreement.
This is one of the more important timelines in the statute, and it notably provides a floor, not a ceiling. It sets a minimum time frame to ensure Congress has AT LEAST – there are those two words again – 30 days to review all the necessary information and documents before the implementing legislation is formally submitted to Congress.
I would like to point out that this minimum 30-day window is a new requirement. We included this requirement for the first time in the most recent TPA statute to provide increased transparency and ensure adequate consideration and debate in Congress.
There are many additional steps that take place once Congress has all of the required information and before the implementing bill is formally submitted, and those steps take time.
First, Congress, in consultation with the administration, has to develop a draft implementing bill for the agreement. Then, the committees of jurisdiction will hold hearings to examine both the agreement and the draft legislation.
Following these hearings, another very important step occurs: the informal markups in the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees. Most people call this process “the mock markup.”
The mock markup – which, once again, occurs BEFORE the President formally submits the trade agreement to Congress – is similar to any other committee markup. The committee reviews the draft legislation and has votes on amendments, if any are offered. If the Finance and Ways and Means committees end up with different versions of the draft implementing bill, they can proceed to a mock conference to work out the details and reconcile any differences.
The mock markup process is well established in practice and is an essential part Congress’s consideration of any trade agreement. It is the best way for Congress to provide direct input – complete with vote tallies and on-the-record debates – to the President to demonstrate whether the implementing bill meets the criteria set out in the TPA statute and whether there is enough support in Congress for the agreement to pass.
After those steps are taken, a final implementing bill may be introduced in the House and Senate. Only after the final implementing bill is introduced is Congress under any kind of deadline to vote on the agreement – the votes must take place within 90 session days.
Of course, in this case, I’m using the word “deadline” pretty loosely. The vote doesn’t have to take place within 90 CALENDAR days – it must take place within 90 SESSION days, and only Congress can decide when it is and is not going to be in session.
Long story short, Mr. President, no one should be under any illusions that, because the TPP is being signed today, an up or down vote on the agreement is imminent or that our oversight responsibilities are at an end.
If history has taught us anything, it’s that this process can, and often does, take a very long time to complete. In fact, it’s not an exaggeration – or even all that remarkable – to say that it can take years to get an agreement through Congress AFTER it is signed.
Historically speaking, the shortest period of time we’ve seen between the signing of an agreement and the introduction of implementing legislation, which, once again, triggers a statutory deadline for a vote in Congress, is 30 days. That was with our bilateral trade agreement with Morocco. Needless to say, that agreement is an outlier and, quite frankly, it isn’t a useful model for considering and passing an agreement as massive as the TPP.
Other trade agreements – like our agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama – took more than four years to see an implementing bill introduced in Congress. That’s four years from the time the agreement was signed – which is what is happening today with the TPP – and the time the clock started ticking for a vote in the Senate.
Our trade agreement with Peru took 533 days, or about a year and a half. Our agreement with Bahrain took just over a year.
All of these, while significant in their own right, were bilateral agreements and paled in comparison to the size and scope of the TPP.
The closest parallels to the TPP we have in our history – and they’re not really that close at all – are the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, and the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement, or DR-CAFTA, both of which took more than 10 months. And, once again, that wasn’t 10 months between the signing day and the vote – that was 10 months between the day the agreement was signed and the introduction of an implementing bill, which triggers a required-yet-fluid timeline for a vote in Congress.
Of course, none of these timelines for previous trade agreements are all that illustrative, Mr. President, because the TPP is nothing like our other agreements. By any objective measure, the TPP is a historic trade agreement, without a comparable precedent. Its approval would be a significant achievement.
That is all the more reason to ensure it gets full and fair consideration in Congress, however long that process takes. And, all of us – on both sides of the aisle, on both sides of the Capitol, and on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue – should be careful when we talk about timelines and deadlines for votes.
I’m quite certain the President wants to get a strong TPP agreement passed as soon as possible.
I share that goal.
But, Congress has a history of taking the time necessary to consider and pass trade agreements, and the process set out under TPA demands that we do so.
Despite a number of claims to the contrary, Congress does not rubber stamp trade agreements and we will not do so in this case.
We cannot short circuit the process.
With an agreement of this significance, we must be more vigilant, more deliberative, and more accountable than ever before.
We need to take the necessary time to carefully review the agreement and engage in a meaningful dialogue with the administration.
If that occurs, and if the administration is prepared to engage with our TPP partners to address congressional concerns, I am confident the TPP agreement can be successfully approved by Congress.
That may take more time than some would like. But, the process of achieving favorable outcomes in international trade is a marathon not a sprint. There are no short-cuts.
To get this done, we have to do the work and lay a strong foundation in Congress.
As I’ve said many times, the TPP is an extremely important agreement, and we need to get it done. But, given that importance, we need to focus more on getting it right than on getting it done fast.
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