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TPA: Empowering Congress to Set America’s Trade Agenda

January 15, 2015

The new Congress is focused on helping create jobs and giving Americans greater economic opportunity. And America’s trade agenda is critical to this effort.

Expanding export markets for American businesses means more productivity and more good American jobs.

Right now, the United States is negotiating several important trade agreements that will open markets to our goods and services. But before we can complete them, Congress must pass what is called Trade Promotion Authority—or TPA.

TPA gives the U.S. the strongest hand possible when negotiating with our trading partners, showing them that we are serious and that they must put their best offers on the table.

It also strengthens the role of Congress in setting trade policy.

Trade Promotion Authority empowers Congress to set America’s negotiating priorities. It directs the administration by giving it instructions for negotiating with other countries. Under TPA, Congress calls the shots.

Indeed, the first thing that TPA legislation does is establish the U.S.’s negotiating objectives: like protecting intellectual-property rights, breaking down non-tariff barriers, or establishing rules for agricultural trade. These negotiating objectives—more than 100 in total—ensure that the administration does not veer from the congressional priorities that will help put Americans in good jobs.

The second thing TPA does is keep Congress—and the public—fully informed during the negotiations process. TPA requires the administration to consult with members of Congress—any member has the right to a briefing at any time—and puts in place transparency measures so there are no surprises along the way.

Finally, TPA makes clear that it is Congress and only Congress that can approve trade agreements with other countries. It allows for an up-or-down vote on implementing legislation, giving a stronger hand to our negotiators. But at the same time, it provides an off ramp—an opportunity to strip TPA procedures and follow regular order—if the administration fails to meet the objectives or fails to consult with Congress as prescribed by TPA.

TPA is the essential first step for expanding American exports and helping create new jobs, and one House Republicans are ready to take now.