April 22,2015

Press Contact:

Aaron Fobes, Julia Lawless (202) 224-4515

Hatch Says TPA Strengthens Congressional Role in Trade Agreements

Utah Senator says, “Our bill empowers Congress at every step, from trade negotiations to final approval of an agreement. Our bill makes clear what objectives a trade agreement must reach in order to be approved by Congress. In fact, the bill contains the clearest articulation of trade priorities in our nation’s history.”

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor today, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) outlined how Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) empowers Congress to lead on trade agreements by establishing strict negotiations objectives that any administration must meet in a trade agreement, requiring Congressional consultation, and ensuring Congress has the final say on any agreement.

TPA is a compact between the Senate, the House, and the administration.  Under this compact, the administration agrees to pursue objectives specified by Congress and consult with Congress as it negotiates trade agreements,” Hatch said.

   Mr. President, I want to take a few minutes this morning to talk once again about Congress’s role in advancing our nation’s trade policy. 

   While I know that trade policy can be a very contentious topic here in Congress, there are two simple facts that are beyond dispute: 1) More than 96 percent of the world’s consumers live outside of the United States; and 2) in order to be competitive, American businesses need to be able to sell more American-made products and services to those overseas customers. 

   In order to do that, we need to tear down barriers to American exports.  At the same time, we should lay down enforceable rules for our trading partners so we can be sure that American workers and job creators are competing on a level playing field. 

   In order to accomplish these goals and to advance our nation’s interests in the global marketplace, Congress and the administration need to work together.  Most people acknowledge this reality.  Yet, there are differing views as to what mechanisms should be in place to facilitate cooperation between these two branches of government.

   In the end, there is only one legislative tool with a proven track record: Trade Promotion Authority, otherwise known as TPA.  For decades – going back as far as FDR – TPA has been a cornerstone of U.S. trade policy.

   TPA is a compact between the Senate, the House, and the administration.  Under this compact, 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 expedited consideration of trade agreements without amendments. 

   For a number of reasons, this compact is essential for the conclusion and passage of strong trade agreements. 

   Put simply, without TPA, our trading partners will not put their best offers on the table because they will have no guarantees that the agreement they reach will be the one that Congress votes on in the end.

   The most recent version of TPA expired eight years ago.  While trade negotiations have continued since that time, without TPA in place, our negotiators have effectively been negotiating with one hand tied behind their backs.  We need to renew TPA sooner rather than later in order to give these negotiators the tools they need to reach the best deals possible. 

   The stakes are very high.

   Currently, the U.S. in the midst of negotiating some of the most ambitious trade agreements in our nation’s history, most notably the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP.  If we want these negotiations to succeed – and I would hope that, for the good of our country, most of us do want them to succeed – we need to renew TPA. 

   Last week, I was joined by my colleagues, Senator Wyden and Chairman Ryan of the House Ways and Means Committee, in introducing the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015.  This legislation would renew TPA and promote the advancement of 21st Century trade policies. 

   Later today – in just a little while, in fact – the Senate Finance Committee will be marking up this bill as well as other important pieces of trade legislation. 

   It’s taken us a long time to get here.

   As you may recall, Mr.  President, I, along with the two former Chairmen, Baucus and Camp, introduced a bill to renew TPA early last year.  That bill had bipartisan support in Congress and was broadly endorsed by the business community.  It also had the support of officials in the Obama Administration. 

   When Republicans took control of the Senate this year and I became the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, I made renewing TPA my top trade priority for this Congress and set out to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle.  This legislation that we’ll be marking up today is the result of that hard work and I’m grateful to my colleagues for working with me to get us this far.

   Of course, the effort to renew TPA really began a long time before we introduced our bill last year.  Indeed, the discussion and debate over a new and improved TPA began even before the last iteration expired in 2007.        

   We’ve been talking about this for a long time.  Now it is time to act.

Over the past few weeks, as we’ve been preparing to move our legislation forward, some people – including some of my colleagues – have expressed concerns about TPA and trade agreements in general.  I want to take a few minutes this morning to address some of the specific issues that have been raised. 

   Some have argued that TPA cedes too much power to the administration and undermines Congress’s constitutional authority to make laws.

   I know that people have heard the President claiming that TPP will be “the most progressive trade agreement in history.”  And, they’ve heard him brag about the labor and environmental standards the administration is shooting for with the agreement. 

   The question inevitably becomes: Will President Obama try to use this or any other trade agreement to advance unilateral changes in U.S. law and policy.  And, even though we all know that no trade agreement can go into force without Congress’s approval, given this administration’s track record on executive overreach, people are right to be concerned about these issues. 

   Fortunately, our TPA bill addresses these uncertainties.  Rather than ceding authority to the Executive Branch, our bill empowers Congress at every step, from trade negotiations to final approval of an agreement. 

   Our bill makes clear what objectives a trade agreement must reach in order to be approved by Congress.  In fact, the bill contains the clearest articulation of trade priorities in our nation’s history.  It includes nearly 150 ambitious, high-standard negotiating objectives, including strong rules for intellectual property rights and agricultural trade, as well as protections for U.S. investment. 

   In addition to setting negotiating objectives, our legislation constrains the administration in a number of ways.

   For example, it ensures that implementing bills for trade agreements will include, and I’m quoting the text of the bill here, “only such provisions as are strictly necessary or appropriate to implement” trade agreements. 

   Additionally, it makes clear that any commitments made by the administration that are not disclosed to Congress before an implementing bill is introduced are not to be considered part of the relevant agreement and will have no force of law. 

   And, our legislation clarifies that trade agreements must be concluded within the TPA time frame and that any substantial modifications or additions made after that time will not be eligible for approval under TPA procedures. 

Hatch Says TPA Strengthens Congressional Role in Trade Agreements So, while I understand and even sympathize with those who might be suspicious of this administration and its tendency to push the boundaries of its constitutional authority, our TPA bill speaks to those concerns. 

   Furthermore, for those who might be worried that trade agreements could be used to undermine U.S. sovereignty, our bill addresses those issues as well.

   First, the bill makes clear that any provision of a trade agreement that is inconsistent with federal or state law will have no effect.  Second, it states specifically that federal and state laws will prevail in the event of a conflict with a trade agreement.  Third, it affirms that no trade agreement can prevent Congress or the states from changing their laws in the future.  Fourth, it confirms that the administration cannot unilaterally change U.S. law. 

   As you can see, Mr. President, far from abdicating Congress’s power over U.S. trade policy, our TPA bill enhances the role of Congress when it comes to trade agreements.

   In addition to general concerns about constitutional powers and U.S. sovereignty, I’ve heard some express specific concerns that President Obama could use the Trans-Pacific Partnership to enact changes to our immigration laws and that TPA will somehow empower him to do so. 

   These concerns are unfounded for at least two reasons.

   First, immigration is completely irrelevant to the objectives of the TPP agreement and administration officials have been clear and unequivocal that no immigration provisions are under negotiation.

   Just last week, USTR Michael Froman testified before the Finance Committee and said: “I can assure you that we are not negotiating anything in TPP that would require any modifications of the U.S. immigration laws or system, any changes to our existing visa system. And, in fact, TPP will explicitly state that it will not require changes in any party's immigration laws or procedures.”

   Second, even if people don’t trust this administration, particularly when it comes to immigration, the provisions of our TPA bill – the ones I just got through talking about – provide greater congressional oversight and authority over trade agreements and prevent this or any future administration from misleading Congress about what is included in a trade agreement.

   In other words, Mr. President, if anyone is worried that, despite their clear statements to the contrary, the Obama Administration will use TPP to advance its immigration agenda, they should support our TPA bill. 

   Another concern I’ve heard – from people both in and out of government – is that the trade agreements currently under discussion have been negotiated behind closed doors and that, by renewing TPA, Congress would be enabling this type of secrecy.

   Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, the opposite is true.

   Our TPA bill goes further than any previous version of TPA to promote transparency, both for members of Congress and the American people. 

   Under our legislation, any member of Congress who wants access to the negotiating text will get it.  And, at any time during the negotiations, members of Congress will be able to request and receive a briefing from USTR on the status of the negotiations.  In addition, the bill will require the administration to publicly release the full text of an agreement at least 60 days before they sign it, giving the American people full access and knowledge of all trade agreements before they are signed and well before they are submitted to Congress for approval. 

   In short, Mr. President, any member of Congress who is concerned about a lack of transparency in trade negotiations should be a cosponsor of the Hatch-Wyden-Ryan TPA bill. 

   The last concern I’ll talk about today, Mr./Mdm. President, deals with currency manipulation.  Specifically, I’ve heard from colleagues that our TPA bill should include stronger, enforceable standards to prevent our trading partners from engaging in currency manipulation.

   Now, make no mistake, I think currency manipulation is a serious issue.  Like my colleagues, I am worried that the currency policies of a number of countries – including some of our trade partners – continue to have negative consequences on U.S. businesses and workers.   And, I believe Congress should carefully consider ways to address this issue. 

   That’s why, for the first time, our TPA bill includes a negotiating objective intended to address currency manipulation. 

   While I understand that some of my colleagues would like that provision to be stronger, this is a very complex issue.  Many have expressed valid concerns that, by requiring our trade agreements to contain enforceable currency provisions, we would be inviting a number of unintended consequences, including challenges to U.S. monetary policy.  In addition, most have acknowledged that such provisions would effectively derail the TPP negotiations, harming our farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers that so desperately need access to those markets.

   It’s not just me saying this, Mr. President.  Yesterday, I received a letter from Treasury Secretary Lew expressing these very concerns about the possibility of including enhanced currency provisions in TPA.  On top of that, ten former Treasury Secretaries – from both Republican and Democratic administrations – sent a letter to congressional leaders that made similar arguments.

   I ask unanimous consent that copies of both of these letters be entered into the record immediately following my remarks. 

   As you can see, Mr. President, there is more than ample reason to doubt the wisdom of inserting stronger currency provisions into TPA.  I think it’s fair, given Secretary Lew’s very clear statements, to assume that President Obama wouldn’t sign a TPA bill that included such provisions.  And, it think it’s more than fair to say that, even if he would sign such a bill, it would be devastating to our ongoing trade negotiations, thereby threatening growth in jobs right here at home.  That being the case, I hope my colleagues who are pursuing this route will reconsider their positions.

   Once again, Mr. President, we’re going to markup our TPA bill later today.  I’m excited for this opportunity.  I think we’ll get a strong bipartisan vote to report the bill and send it to the floor.

   We’ve crafted a good bill, one that I think members of both parties can support.  I know that some members have anxieties and concerns about these issues.  We put the bill together with those types of concerns in mind and, as I think I’ve demonstrated today, anyone who is truly supportive of trade and of opening foreign markets to U.S. goods and services and wants to create more good jobs right here at home should support our bill. 

   Since the day we introduced our legislation, letters and statements of support have been pouring in.  I’ll mention just a few here today. 

   We’ve had statements from administration officials, including the President himself. 

   And, to say support from the business community has been overwhelming would be a gross understatement.  We’ve gotten letters from virtually every industry: farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, tech companies, health care companies – I could literally go on and on…but I won’t, at least not right now. 

   Instead, today, I’ll just mention two of the many letters of support we’ve received from businesses and job creators. 

   I’ve got a letter here from the Trade Benefits America Coalition signed by hundreds of companies and major trade associations expressing their strong support for the Hatch-Wyden-Ryan TPA bill.  I ask unanimous consent that it be entered into the record at the conclusion of my remarks.

   I’ve got another letter here signed by nearly 300 state and local chambers of commerce, farm bureaus and manufacturing associations, all expressing their support for the swift renewal of TPA.  I ask unanimous consent that this letter be placed in the record at the conclusion of my remarks.

   Leaders from a number of leading conservative organizations have expressed support as well, including: the Conservative Reform Network, the CATO Institute, Americans for Tax Reform, American Enterprise Institute, American Action Forum, Tea Party Express, 60 Plus, American Commitment, American Conservative Union, Americans for Job Security, Center for Individual Freedom, Citizens for Limited Taxation, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Conservative Reform Network, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Crossroads GPS, Digital Liberty, Ending Spending, Frontiers of Freedom, Georgia Center Right Coalition, Institute for Liberty, Minnesota Center Right Coalition, National Taxpayers Union, R Street, Rio Grande Foundation, Taxpayer Protection Alliance, and the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy. 

   That’s a long list.  And, it’s growing every day. 

   As you can see, TPA is supported across the ideological spectrum. 

   I suppose this is the best way I can put it: Senator Ted Cruz co-authored an op-ed with Chairman Ryan in support of our bill in today’s Wall Street Journal.  If both Ted Cruz and Barack Obama support our legislation, it’s probably safe to say that we’re onto something.

   I appreciate all the support we’ve received thus far for our TPA bill.  It’s been gratifying to see. 

   I look forward to talking more with colleagues about these issues in the coming weeks.