Friday, June 5, 2015

Senator Inhofe's (R-OK) response to TPP fast track authority

Dear Mr. Risselada:

Thank you for your correspondence regarding Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).  As your Senator, I appreciate knowing your views. 

The purpose of granting TPA to a President is to make it more efficient for him to negotiate agreements with U.S. trading partners.  TPA does this by establishing expedited procedures under which negotiated trade agreements are considered in Congress.  In essence, the legislation offers trading partners the assurance that the agreements, once submitted to Congress, will receive an up or down vote without amendment.  President Bush received TPA in 2002 in response to the growing number of trade agreements that were being negotiated.  This authority expired on July 1, 2007.  

It is important to note that TPA does not remove Congress’ ability to influence the outcome of trade agreements.  In fact, it enhances Congress’ role in the negotiating process. TPA procedures require that the President notify Congress at least 90 calendar days of his intent to sign an agreement.  This gives Congress the opportunity to review and provide input before it is signed. Once the agreement is signed and sent to Congress, Congress has 90 days to pass or reject the bill. 

On July 31, 2013, President Obama asked Congress to reauthorize TPA because current trade negotiations are in progress on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). He restated his request for TPA in his January 20, 2015, State of the Union address. Legislation to renew TPA (H.R. 3830/S. 1900) was introduced in the 113th Congress, but it was not acted uponHowever, on April 16, 2015, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), the Ranking Member, introduced new TPA legislation – the “Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015.” On April 22, the Senate Finance Committee voted 206 to advance the bill to the full Senate. After five days of debate on TPA, the Senate passed the measure, with my support, by a vote of 62 to 37on May 22, 2015

Through Trade Promotion Authority, Congress sets out specific trade negotiating objectives that must be met before a trade bill can be brought to Congress for approval.  This holds the Administration to greater accountability and transparency standards when negotiating the agreements than would otherwise be required. Should an Administration fail to meet Congressional trade objectives or fail to inform Congress on the progress of negotiations, there are legislative mechanisms in place for Congress to withdraw the use of fast track authority.  Furthermore, TPA stipulates that any changes made to a trade agreement after it is enacted will require Congressional approval. TPA also mandates that trade agreements cannot change or override U.S. laws or regulations, including those related to immigration.  By including this provision, the Senate is effectively preventing back door amnesty from being a part of any trade agreement. 

The potential benefits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership currently being negotiated are difficult to understate.  If modeled after the free trade agreements with Korea, Panama, and Colombia, they could expand market opportunities for our farmers, manufacturers, and energy exporters across the Pacific Rim and Europe. Oklahoma already exports $1.9 billion in wheat, beef, pork, and other agriculture products per year and is among the top five natural gas producing States.  This six-year TPA reauthorization will give the U.S. a strong voice in these trade deals, providing more opportunities for the development of our natural gas resources while maintaining our strong agricultural heritage. Every trade agreement must be evaluated on its merits, but I am hopeful TPA’s passage ushers in new economic opportunities for the United States.

Again, thank you for your comments on this issue. If you are interested in keeping up with my work in the Senate, I invite you to sign up for my newsletter by visiting http://www.inhofe.senate.gov/newsletter/sign-upPlease do not hesitate to contact me again should you have additional concerns. 

Sincerely,
James M. Inhofe
United States Senator

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