Obama administration working toward trade promotion authority
January 21, 2015
President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech Tuesday night at the Capitol. (White House)
After President Barack Obama asked Congress in his State of the Union address to grant him trade promotion authority, the administration has begun a push to convince Democrats to support it, even as Democratic House members who oppose it began their own campaign to convince other members to join them.
In his speech Tuesday night, Obama said, "Twenty-first century businesses, including small businesses, need to sell more American products overseas. Today, our businesses export more than ever, and exporters tend to pay their workers higher wages."
"But as we speak, China wants to write the rules for the world's fastest-growing region," Obama said.
"That would put our workers and our businesses at a disadvantage. Why would we let that happen? We should write those rules. We should level the playing field. That's why I'm asking both parties to give me trade promotion authority to protect American workers, with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe that aren't just free, but are also fair. It's the right thing to do."
Obama added, "Look, I'm the first one to admit that past trade deals haven't always lived up to the hype, and that's why we've gone after countries that break the rules at our expense."
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"But 95 percent of the world's customers live outside our borders. We can't close ourselves off from those opportunities. More than half of manufacturing executives have said they're actively looking to bring jobs back from China. So let's give them one more reason to get it done."
Most major farm groups have already said they support TPA, which would grant the administration the power to negotiate with other countries with the knowledge that Congress could vote any agreement up or down but not amend it.
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, who delivered the Republican responses to the State of the Union, also supported TPA, and the National Corn Growers Association said in a news release that its members were pleased both Obama and Ernst highlighted the importance of trade.
"Modernized TPA improves our nation's ability to advance trade agreements that open markets for U.S. farmers," said NCGA President Chip Bowling. "Ag exports, at nearly $150 billion, support over one million American jobs."
The National Farmers Union is the only major farm group to oppose TPA.
In a news release today, NFU President Roger Johnson Johnson urged Obama to reconsider whether to move forward with the trade measures.
"Free trade agreements are not only exporting American jobs, they are contributing to an increasing trade deficit that has become a major drag on the economy," Johnson said.
"For 2014, the U.S. trade deficit is expected to total about $500 billion and these agreements are likely to add to that number," he said. "The US government needs to clearly direct our trade negotiators to conclude trade agreements that will erase our trade deficit and lead to more balanced trade in the future."
The White House has ordered all Cabinet officers to round up votes for trade promotion authority, The Hill Online reported Tuesday. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., have said they are taking a wait-and-see attitude about the measure, The Hill Online also reported.
But Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., is leading the Democratic campaign against TPA. On Tuesday DeLauro held a news conference with other members and the National Farmers Union.
Today DeLauro and Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., scheduled a news conference in response to the State of the Union and said they would be whipping up opposition to "fast track" (an earlier term for trade promotion authority) and to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
DeLauro and Slaughter were scheduled to be joined by Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who caucuses with the Democrats, and Reps. Barbara Lee of California, Tim Walz of Minnesota, Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Debbie Dingell of Michigan.
Trade Representative Michael Froman gave a speech to the U.S. Conference of Mayors on trade and TPA today, and said he is certain Congress will grant TPA to Obama, Washington Trade Daily reported.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said he would hold a hearing on the administration's trade agenda on Tuesday.
–The Hagstrom Report