Last week, bi-partisan legislation was introduced in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate that would restore the president’s authority to negotiate trade deals. Senate Finance Committee Chairman, Max Baucus (D-MT), and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman, Dave Camp (R-MI) both introduced Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation that, once passed, will increase U.S. exports and support the creation of American jobs, including in the agriculture industry.
TPA has been an important tool for Republican and Democrat president’s alike to negotiate trade agreements that benefit U.S. industry. Without it, foreign countries are unwilling to complete trade deals with the U.S. anticipating that congressional amendments may unravel a hard-fought negotiation. Western Growers applauds this first legislative step towards the further opening of export markets.
With growing export markets in Asia, as well as significant trade relationships with Canada and Mexico, it is important that these negotiations reduce export barriers and ensure our trading partners do not use spurious phytosanitary concerns or other barriers to trade.
In response to the introduction of the legislation, Western Growers President and CEO Tom Nassif said, "The fresh produce industry is witnessing increased foreign competition and low tariffs on imports into the United States. Leveling the playing field through trade promotion legislation would result in more investment and jobs in the American fresh produce industry.”
“If the produce industry is to take full advantage of opened foreign markets, we expect to also see continued bi-partisan support and action on immigration reform. The U.S. trade balance in vegetables is negative, primarily because of a labor shortage that Congress can fix. The United States can only feed the world if we have the labor force necessary to take advantage of opened markets.”
The Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014 not only establishes 21st Century trade negotiating objectives, but it also sets up rules for the Administration to follow when engaged in trade talks, including strict requirements for Congressional consultations and access to information. Simply put, TPA authorizes the president to negotiate free trade agreements that are voted on an up or down basis by Congress (cannot be amended by Congress) so long as the Administration follows the congressional consultation requirements.
Trade promotion legislation expired in 2007 and both chambers of Congress are looking to move the legislation in bi-partisan fashion in order to boost domestic economic activity.
WG will continue to keep you apprised of the progress of this legislation in both the House and Senate.
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