By Barbara Olejnik
Poultry Times Staff
GAINESVILLE, Ga. — President Obama has signed into law the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation, providing the administration with the tool needed to complete trade agreement negotiations.
The so-called ‘fast track’ legislation allows the administration to negotiate a trade agreement to be presented to the Congress for an up or down vote with no amendments.
A priority for the White House has been completion of a 12-nation trade agreement — The Trans-Pacific Partnership. Completion of the agreement has hinged on whether the the trade promotion authority would be established.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said passing of the Trade Promotion Authority legislation “helps to secure the future of American agriculture and the rural way of life, and will protect American workers, create new opportunities for rural businesses, and protect the environment. Trade agreements are a driving force behind expanded U.S. exports, which means U.S. companies can provide more, better paying jobs.”
The secretary noted that last year, American agricultural exports grew to a record $152.5 billion, and the past six years represent the strongest in history for U.S. agricultural trade.
The final congressional action on the trade authority came on June 24 when the Senate voted 60-38 to approve the legislation.
The Senate vote capped almost six weeks of a back-and-forth effort on both sides of Congress.
The Senate had originally passed a TPA bill that included additional legislation renewing the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which would aid U.S. workers hurt by trade agreements
Many Democrats, along with labor unions, have said they blame earlier trade deals, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, as being responsible for the loss of American jobs to overseas markets with lower wage rates.
This combined legislation failed to pass the House of Representatives. The House then established two separate pieces of legislation, voted for passage of both and sent the bills back to the Senate for action.
The president also signed the bill establishing the Trade Adjustment Assistance that provides aid to workers whose jobs are displaced by trade agreements.
Vilsack stated, “I also applaud Congress for passing Trade Adjustment Assistance, a necessary program that provides job training and other benefits to help workers compete in a globalized economy, and the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which provides mutual benefits to the United States and our trading partners in sub-Saharan Africa and puts in place important incentives to adopt good governance and pro-growth and pro-development policies, including on labor and human rights. This legislation is vital to ensuring protections for American workers and the continued strength of our relationships with trading partners.”