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Trade Promotion Authority – TPA (Fast Track)

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Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) is an authority on trade agreements that Congress can grant to the President. This way implementing bills can be treated under a faster legislative procedure. TPA defines how Congress exercises its constitutional authority over a particular aspect of trade policy. At the same time it gives the President more leverage to negotiate, since a final agreement will receive a swifter treatment in the Congress. The bill cannot be amended and the filibuster options are removed. The committees have 45 days to report the bill, and both Houses then have to vote within 15 days. That’s why TPA may also help reassure US partners that a deal won’t be renegotiated or go through an amendment process in Congress.

History

Legally; TPA is not required either to begin or to wind up trade negotiations. However, it is seen as an important part of defining the power of Congress. Therefore, a renewal would be interpreted as a signal of congressional support. Before 2002 it was known as Fast Track (1975-1994) and from 2002 as the Trade Act of 2002 (see: Bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority Act of 2002 (US Code Title 19 Chapter 24)). This act expired in 1st July 2007, but still applied to agreements already being negotiated.

Ongoing discussion

In light of three trade agreements being negotiated (TTIP, TPP & TISA Members of Congress from both parties oppose (in what the Financial Times call an “unholy alliance“) a renewal of Trade Promotion Authority. In a speech (30 July 2013) President Obama requested that it be renewed by Congress, and some Democrats have supported TPA. In January 2014, a bipartisan bill was introduced in the Senate, but both the Senate’s Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Democratic Leadership in the House, Nancy Pelosi, have said that they will oppose it. In view of the elections later this year, progressive Democrats worry that the Trans-Pacific Partnership might undermine US labour and environmental standards

Further reading

Trade Promotion Authority / Office of the United States Trade Representative

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) and the Role of Congress in Trade Policy / J. F. Hornbeck & William H. Cooper, Congressional Research Service, January 14, 2014

Huffington Post on Fast Track

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