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Trade: White House Seeks Special Authority

by Glenn Hess
January 27, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 4

Congress is expected to consider legislation early this year that would give the White House special trade authority. The Obama Administration is seeking trade promotion authority to ease congressional passage of several proposed free-trade agreements, including one being negotiated with a group of 11 Pacific region nations and another with the 28-nation European Union.

Trade promotion authority lets Congress set parameters for considering trade deals. And it allows the White House to submit presidentially negotiated trade pacts to Congress for an up or down vote without any amendments.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and House of Representatives Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) introduced identical bills in their respective chambers on Jan. 9 to renew the authority, which expired in 2007.

Without this fast-track procedure, “negotiating partners are unlikely to put their best offers on the table for fear that Congress could reopen the proposal and strip them from the final agreement,” says a spokesman for the American Chemistry Council, an industry trade group.

U.S. negotiators are in the final stages of reaching a deal, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, with countries in Asia. They have also begun talks with the EU on an accord being called the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership.

“Concluding these negotiations, as well as other trade agreements, will require congressional passage of trade promotion authority legislation,” Camp says. “Given the considerable bipartisan and bicameral progress that has been made on that front, I expect we will be in a position to do so” early in 2014.

Trade promotion authority is a “critical tool to advance U.S. trade agreements and support job growth within industries such as specialty chemical manufacturing,” says William E. Allmond IV, vice president of government relations at the Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates (SOCMA), which represents specialty chemical makers.



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