January 26, 2015 | U.S. Grains Council

Obama Calls for TPA in State of the Union, Elevating Key Trade Priority

Allows the sitting administration to negotiate trade agreements

President Barack Obama called for Congress to approve trade promotion authority (TPA) in his State of the Union address delivered Tuesday, formally requesting what many believe will be the linchpin to securing new markets in Europe and Asia and elevating the issue to the national conversation.

In a section of the speech focused on the United States' global competitiveness, Obama made the request many in the agriculture industry have been waiting for, saying he is "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 fair."

Trade promotion authority, sometimes called "fast track authority," allows the sitting administration to negotiate trade agreements that must be considered by Congress within 90 legislative days of submission and without the opportunity for amendment.

This streamlining of what could otherwise be a long and rocky road for trade agreements in Congress is considered essential to both final passage of agreements and to getting trade partners to put their best offers on the table during the talks themselves.

Negotiators are working to complete two multilateral agreements with the potential for dramatic impact on U.S. farmers' market access, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with Pacific Rim countries and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Negotiations (T-TIP) with the European Union.

The President's push on trade has garnered widespread support in an otherwise highly polarized political environment, with the notable exception of some in the vocal liberal wing of the President's own party.

Obama acknowledged concerns about more open trade in his speech, but also noted that "95 percent of the world's customers live outside our borders, and we can't close ourselves off from those opportunities."

In the Republican response to the State of the Union, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said new trade agreements would help the economy and create jobs. The chairmen of both the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee, which have jurisdiction over trade policy, have publicly supported TPA and have scheduled hearings next week on the 2015 trade agenda.

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), a USGC sister association, and other agriculture organizations that work on legislative policy have also called for passage of bipartisan TPA legislation.


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