May 04,2015

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Aaron Fobes, Julia Lawless (202)224-4515

Trade Promotion Authority: Just the Facts

Bipartisan Trade Tool Reaffirms Congressional Oversight of Trade Pacts


The U.S. Senate Finance Committee voted to advance bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority (TPA 2015) legislation that reaffirms Congress’ role in providing direction for the Administration on trade agreements by a vote of 20-6. With Congress soon expected to take up the measure, here’s a look at what this bill does – it’s just the facts:

TPA 2015 is a Trade Tool, Not a Trade 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 meet specified consultation guidelines 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. This compact is essential for the conclusion and passage of strong trade agreements because it gives our negotiating partners the confidence to put their best offers on the table.  Without TPA, they have no guarantee the agreement they reach will be the one Congress considers. Only if a trade agreement advances Congress’s objectives and Congress is sufficiently consulted, will Congress consider the agreement for an up-or-down vote.

TPA 2015 Preserves U.S. Sovereignty
For the first time in TPA legislation, the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act makes clear that trade agreements will not change U.S. law without congressional action.First, the bill ensures 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.

TPA 2015 Enhances Requirements for Congressional Consultation, Increases Transparency
Right now, any administration – Republican or Democrat – can negotiate a trade agreement on their own terms without clear direction from Congress.  That would change with this legislation.  By requiring that Congress have access to important information surrounding pending trade deals as they are being negotiated, The Trade Priorities and Accountability Act increases transparency and gives Congress and the public the power to see that the trade priorities of Americans are being met.  Under the bill, members of Congress can review the negotiating text, attend negotiating rounds, or be briefed by the administration when inquiring about the status of negotiations. The measure also includes robust reporting requirements on the effects of a trade agreement and for the first time requires the administration to post the agreement online at least 60 days before it is even signed.

TPA 2015 Drives Trade, Not Immigration Policy
TPA has nothing to do with U.S. immigration law and everything to do with equipping Congress to lead on trade.  In fact, TPA strengthens congressional oversight of the Executive Branch’s trade negotiations by requiring that Congress be fully consulted on pending agreements and includes unprecedented transparency provisions.  What’s more, TPA includes safeguards to prevent any administration – Republican or Democrat – from misleading Congress on what is included in any trade agreement. Even more, the Administration has assured the Finance Committee that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement that is currently being negotiated and would close under TPA will not serve as a vehicle to advance the President’s immigration agenda.

TPA 2015 Works to Curb Currency Manipulation
For the first time, TPA includes a negotiating objective on currency to help curb the practice of persistently undervalued currencies by foreign countries in way that won’t threaten the health of the America’s economy or constrain America’s ability to respond to changing economic circumstances.  The provisions are designed so as not to raise the likelihood of trade wars or currency wars. If the Administration fails to make progress in achieving the purposes, policies, priorities, and objectives of TPA, the trade agreement is subject to a procedural disapproval resolution.

TPA 2015 Confirms U.S. Labor and Environmental Standards
TPA confirms that an administration cannot unilaterally change U.S. law and any commitments that are not disclosed to the Congress are not considered part of the agreement.   TPA ensures that State and local labor laws are not subject to trade agreements, while also ensuring that any trade agreement is not construed to empower another country to pursue labor or environmental law enforcement in the United States.