On Thursday, April 16, 2015, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) introduced bipartisan, bicameral Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation – The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 – to Congress.
The passing of this bill would allow the administration to negotiate trade deals with Asian and European nations, and pass it onto Congress in an expedited process. According to an article in the New York Times, this would “give Congress the power to vote on the more encompassing 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership once it is completed, but would deny lawmakers the chance to amend what would be the largest trade deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994."
Although the bill includes strict requirements that the administration and U.S. trade representatives must abide by (to increase transparency and ensure that trade deals promote human rights, improve labor conditions and preserve environmental standards), it does not give the people, as represented by Congress, any negotiating leverage.
Considering we still don’t know the details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the passing of this bill could be devastating for certain industries. Industries like domestic manufacturing that continue to feel the negative effects of NAFTA and KORUS. Trade deals that resulted in an influx of import products and a loss of millions of manufacturing jobs.
Free trade agreements aren’t always fair, as JMC President, Dave Seeger, mentioned in a recent blog post (you can read it here). As a country we need to decide whether we can continue to lose precious American jobs to trade agreements.
The passing of TPA will be felt throughout the country. We must reach out to our Congress and Senate representatives to voice our opinions. Our future depends on it.