(authored by Hayoon Jung, my summer law clerk)
On May 22, 2015 the U.S. Congress gave President Obama expanded trade negotiation powers by passing the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA, 19 U.S.C.A. § 3801-3813). The TPA shortens the time a trade agreement implementing bill stays in Congress by restricting Congressional power to amend the submitted bill. TPA requires the President to hear Congress’ opinion in the course of trade negotiations to assure the trade agreement obtains its goal.
To maintain its Constitutional power in U.S. commerce, Congress requires the President to hear its opinion in the course of trade negotiations and delineated trade objectives, such as expanded market opportunities. Moreover, TPA restricts the implementing bill to consist only of provisions that approve the trade agreement and administrative action necessary to implement it. Also, the bill should include “only such provisions as are strictly necessary or appropriate” (italics added). Compared to the 2002 TPA, which did not contain such italicized words, this more stringent standard represents a Congressional intent to interpret the law narrowly.
In this expedited process, an implementing bill submitted by the President is automatically introduced in both houses concurrently, unlike in the regular legislative process. Then, the appropriate committee of each Chamber examines the bill. The debate is limited to 20 hours, whereas there is no limit in the regular process. Then the bill goes to the floor in each Chamber for the members to vote. Each Chamber has to either approve it fully or deny the bill without amendments. Timely floor consideration, limited debate time, and a prohibition on amendments are the three elements that allow the expedited process.
Pros and Cons
The advocates say TPA is neither giving the President a new power, nor depriving the Congress of its legislative power, because Congress still participates in drafting and implementing a bill and reserves the right to deny the bill as in the regular process (https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43491.pdf)
Furthermore, the TPA will promote the U.S. economy by inducing more trade agreements. The reduced cost of re-negotiation will enable other countries to more easily enter into, and finalize trade agreements with the U.S. New agreements will lower trade barriers, thus increasing the volume of international commerce, in turn entailing a higher GDP, spurring job growth.
In contrast, opponents of the TPA express concerns about the seemingly diminished Congressional power in legislating laws (http://dailycaller.com/2015/04/08/uaw-voices-its-opposition-to-trade-promotion-authority). Likewise, they think TPA is unnecessary because both the House and the Senate are aware of the necessity of trade agreements and its reciprocity (http://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/ftb56.pdf They also argue that the individual industries and the workers will be the ones bearing the cost of the lower trade barriers, because they are forced cut the cost to remain competitive in the market (AFL-CIO, http://dailycaller.com/2015/04/08/uaw-voices-its-opposition-to-trade-promotion-authority).
What do you think? Let us know by sharing your comments below!