SALEM, Ohio — Agriculture groups who want to see additional and continued trade deals praised a June 24 vote by the U.S. Senate that seeks to give the president more negotiating power, and advance U.S. trade deals.
In a 60-38 vote, the Senate approved the Bipartisan Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015, which gives seeks to “obtain more open, equitable, and reciprocal market access.” The bill also gives the president something known as “trade promotion authority.”
This concept, often called TPA, allows the president to negotiate with other nations in a more business-like manner. Instead of making deals that are subject to amendments by Congress, the new authority allows the president to make “final deal” offers.
However, all deals are still subject to Congressional approval. The House approved the bill in May with a vote of 407-5, and as amended on June 18, by a vote of 218-208. As the title mentions, it was a “bipartisan” effort.
Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said the decision “sends a strong signal to foreign governments that we mean business at the bargaining table and are ready to complete new agreements that will break down trade barriers and open new markets from Asia to Europe.”
The bill comes at a time when the U.S. is actively engaged in several major foreign trade negotiations, including the Asia-Pacific region. The National Corn Growers Association called the bill’s passage “a huge victory for America’s corn farmers and the entire agricultural industry.” The bill also seeks to “promote full employment in the United States,” and to ensure and protect U.S. labor.
However, the labor issue has been a point of contention for some lawmakers — who fear new trade deals could hurt U.S. workers, and labor unions. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, in floor testimony via C-SPAN, warned Congress against giving up its authority to amend trade agreements. He said that in the past, TPA has resulted in “big promises and bad results,” with more corporate handouts and worker sellouts.
“I believe these trade agreements produce a net loss of jobs,” he said.
Other supporters of the bill include the National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council. Both dairy organizations released a statement, saying TPA is “crucial to negotiating a better deal for dairy farmers in the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership, as well as in future free trade agreements.”
The president has been a proponent of TPA and other trade reform deals, including efforts to provide Trade Adjustment Assistance — a program that assists workers who may be temporarily displaced as a result of trade deals.
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