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Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) and the Role of Congress in Trade Policy

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Legislation to reauthorize Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), formerly called fast track, was introduced as the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015) (H.R. 1890/S. 995) in the Senate and the House on April 16, 2015. The legislation was reported by the Senate Finance Committee on April 22, 2015, and by the House Ways and Means Committee on April 23, 2015. The legislation, as reported by the Senate Finance Committee, was joined with legislation extending Trade Adjustment Assistance into a substitute amendment to H.R. 1314 (an unrelated revenue measure), and the legislation passed on May 22 by a vote of 62-37. In the House of Representatives, the measure was voted on under a procedure known as “division of the question,” which requires separate votes on each component, but approval of both to pass. Voting on June 12, TPA (Title I) passed by a vote of 219-211, but TAA (Title II) was defeated 126-302. A motion to reconsider that vote was laid by Speaker Boehner shortly after that vote. TPA is the process Congress has made available to the President to enable legislation to approve and implement certain international trade agreements to be considered under expedited legislative procedures for limited periods, provided the President observes certain statutory obligations. Although the President has the authority under the Constitution to negotiate international agreements, typically a reciprocal trade agreement requires an implementing bill and, therefore, congressional action to bring it into force. Many Members of Congress have advocated for renewal of TPA. On July 30, 2013, President Obama first publicly requested that Congress reauthorize TPA. He restated his request for TPA during his January 20, 2015, State of the Union address. Legislation to renew TPA was introduced in the 113th Congress (H.R. 3830) (S. 1900), but it was not acted upon. The previous grant of TPA authority expired on July 1, 2007. The details of the legislation are likely to be subject to considerable debate, including the specific treatment of any related TAA program reauthorization. This report presents background and analysis on the development of TPA, a summary of the major provisions under the expired authority, and a discussion of the issues that have arisen in the debate over TPA renewal. It also explores some of the policy options available to Congress.

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Trade Promotion Authority; TPA; trade agreements; Congress; legislation


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