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Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler

Representing the 4th District of Missouri
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Setting the Record Straight on TPA

June 12, 2015
Blog

Setting the Record Straight on TPA

First and foremost, Washington uses far too many abbreviations and they can get misconstrued, so let’s start with some definitions…

TPA = Trade Promotion Authority.  This is what the U.S. House is expected to vote on this Friday.  It defines congressional objectives and priorities for the administration to follow when negotiating trade agreements (more on this below).  TPA is not a new power being sought by the President. In fact, nearly every president since FDR has had TPA.  The legislative text for TPA is available here.

TPP = Trans Pacific Partnership.  This is the name of a trade agreement that the U.S. is negotiating with 11 other countries. The U.S. has been negotiating this since the Bush administration. There is no vote scheduled on TPP and there won’t be until all of the countries involved finalize negotiations and the public has been able to review it for at least 60 days (assuming TPA passes, that is).

 

There is a lot of misinformation floating around about what the U.S. House of Representatives is voting on this week.  Let’s set the record straight…

Myth:  Congress is voting this week on a trade agreement.
Fact:  This week, Congress is expected to vote on TPA – a bill that would set congressional parameters on any ongoing trade negotiations, including TPP. 

TPA is in no way a trade agreement.  Instead, TPA allows Congress to help set the rules for trade negotiations and lays out objectives of what a good trade deal looks like for America.  This helps ensure greater transparency throughout the negotiating process by empowering Congress to conduct vigorous oversight and hold the administration accountable. 

 

Myth:  Congress will have to pass TPA to see what is in it.
Fact:  TPA’s legislative language has been publicly available for nearly two months.  You can find a copy of the bill Congress will be voting on here.

We know exactly what TPA will do and we have for quite some time.  On April 23 in a public hearing, members of the House Ways and Means Committee worked to clear the legislative language for consideration by the full House.

 

Myth: TPP is being negotiated with a dangerous and unprecedented level of secrecy (and TPA lets that happen).
Fact:  While TPP negotiating documents are available to Members of Congress, they are not fully available to the general public right now because there is no finalized agreement to review.  This is common during negotiations like this.  That being said, the final text would be available online for 60 days before it’s even sent to Congress for its consideration, assuming TPA is in place. This 60-day review period is mandated by the pending TPA legislation.

It is false to say that TPP negotiations have been secretive.  Key congressional committees have received previews of various TPP proposals before the U.S. Trade Representative took them to our trading partners. With TPA in place, the general public will have online access to the final version of any trade agreement, including TPP, 60 days before that agreement is sent to Congress.  Earlier drafts are not made public in this way, because revealing draft proposals before a deal is struck emboldens our opposition, undermines our negotiating positions, and exposes negotiators to public scrutiny over provisions that might not even be in a final deal.  We need to keep the upper hand to get the best deal for America.

 

Myth: TPA gives the President new and unlimited powers.
Fact: TPA gives Congress greater powers, while putting dozens of strict negotiating parameters on the President.

The President already has the authority to negotiate a trade agreement under the Constitution, but TPA enables Congress to be part of the process.  If TPA is established, Congress is telling the administration:  If a trade agreement is to get the privilege of an up-or-down vote in Congress, you must follow our rules and instructions, keep us in the loop, and remember that we have the last say.  As a result, Congress maintains total control over the international trade authority granted to it by Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. Additionally, TPA in no way obligates Congress to approve TPP or any other trade agreement.   If this administration violates the parameters we’ve set, Congress can revoke TPA.  And if he follows the parameters and we still don’t like the agreement, Congress has the power to vote it down. 

 

Myth: TPP is a secret backdoor to achieve the President’s political agenda.
Fact:  The TPA bill specifically bars the President from enacting any changes to U.S. law.

Many have tried to claim that TPA will allow the President to bypass Congress and use the TPP as a backdoor to lawlessly expand immigration, curtail gun rights, or restrict Internet freedom, among other things. That is false.  The Constitution is clear: only Congress can change U.S. law.  TPA further reinforces that with additional restraints on the President. 

 

Myth: Trade agreements destroy U.S. jobs.
Fact: Expanding markets for American exports will fuel stronger economic growth and create jobs.

95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside our borders.  Our growth is limited if our products can’t reach those consumers on a level playing field. Trade supports 815,000 jobs in Missouri.  It enables Missouri to export $23.2 billion in goods and services annually through more than 970 exporters.  It has a huge impact on our economy, and with lower trade barriers, those opportunities only grow. If we don’t expand our opportunities through trade agreements, other countries (like China) will fill the void.

Still looking for more information?  Here are some helpful links.

Summary of Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015
Overview of the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015
Frequently Asked Questions
Updates to TPA in 2015
Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015
Conservative Support for TPA
Section-by-Section Summary
Report