In the fevered debate over international trade, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and trade promotion authority have been used almost interchangeably. But in the end, they are not at all the same thing.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (And You):
Simply put, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a major international trade deal between 12 countries that began negotiations in 2010. The deal includes some major players and will impact a considerable portion of the global economy. Therefore, it has attracted a lot of attention, both positive and negative.
It includes the United States, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The total market size among all the partner countries is about 793 million consumers with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of $28.1 trillion as of 2012. This contributes to 39 percent of the world’s GDP, according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR).
Many, primarily on the left, argue the deal will be used to benefit corporations and special interests at the expense of working Americans. Supporters, however, (including a rare agreement between Republican lawmakers and President Barack Obama) argue the deal will help create more liberated trade, which will help all parties involved.
One main point of concern brought up by Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions is the “living agreement” provision. Sessions, who has read the TPP text, says the provision suggests the president could unilaterally change the deal after it’s been approved by Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not allow a vote on an amendment from Sessions to strike that provision.
Where trade promotion authority (TPA) comes into play is as a means of helping to get TPP passed. Those opposed to TPP therefore tend to be opposed to TPA.
Trade Promotion Authority (And Strange Political Bedfellows):
TPA, also known as fast-track, has created a wedge between Obama and the rest of his own party. If passed, the president could submit a finalized trade deal to Congress, like TPP, which could not be amended or filibustered and would only need a straight up or down vote to pass.
Since fast-track will make it significantly easier for the president to pass TPP, those already opposed to the trade deal are also adamantly opposed to granting the president such authority. This is where much of the confusion comes in. But though fast-track can help pass TPP, they are two different things. In fact, TPP could pass without fast-track– though it will be harder to do so.
Last month, Republicans Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Paul Ryan, along with Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, introduced a bill that would grant the president such authority. Senate Democrats were able to successfully block it, but the next day, a second vote passed it. On Friday, the bill went to the House after being passed in the Senate.
Though supporters were able to get fast-track successfully passed in the Senate, there was still plenty of skepticism among various lawmakers.
Some members have objected to fast-track because it doesn’t include provisions to make sure any trade deal, like TPP, passed through it addresses currency manipulation. Currency manipulation has allowed countries to compete unfairly with the U.S. in the global economy. An amendment adding strict and enforceable currency manipulation rules to the bill, offered by Republican Sen. Rob Portman and Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, was rejected.
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