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No, TPA has nothing to do with do with the President’s immigration agenda

April 16, 2015

Opponents of expanding American exports are going to great lengths to attack trade promotion authority (TPA) as well as a trade agreement currently being negotiated with our Asia–Pacific partners and allies, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The latest is to tie these trade measures to the president’s immigration agenda—and it has no basis in fact.

For starters, temporary entry guest worker visas are not part of U.S. negotiations over TPP. The TPP, a trade agreement that the United States is negotiating with 11 other countries, is intended to expand market access for American products and services through a fully regional agreement that supports the goal of creating jobs and raising the standard of living for all Americans.The United States is seeking to create regulatory uniformity, increase economic competitiveness, assist small- and medium-sized enterprises in trading with other countries, promote trade and investment in new and innovative products and services, and foster global economic development. TPP has nothing to do with the President’s recent action on immigration—period.

TPP will not be used to rewrite immigration law. After receiving congressional input, USTR has been clear that it will not agree to any TPP obligations that would require any modifications to the U.S. immigration system. In addition, like past U.S. trade agreements, TPP will explicitly state that it will not require changes in any parties’ immigration laws or procedures. While other countries are negotiating temporary entry commitments in TPP, these will not include the United States. In fact, while testifying before the Senate Finance Committee, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman made clear that the U.S. will not offer any concessions to TPP countries that would change U.S. Immigration laws or policies. He explained that despite other TPP countries negotiating temporary entry concessions, “We have decided not to do so,” and the U.S. will not be bound by any of these arrangements among other countries should TPP go into effect.

In addition, TPA includes safeguards against the administration misleading Congress on this or any issue. Trade promotion authority brings greater transparency and accountability to the negotiating process by empowering Congress to conduct vigorous oversight and hold the administration accountable. TPA ensures that the administration cannot sneak any immigration measures past Congress. Instead, Congress is in control:

TPA confirms that trade agreements have no direct effect, and the administration cannot unilaterally change U.S. law.

  • TPA contains a new provision affirming that trade agreements cannot change U.S. law without congressional action, nor prevent the U.S. from changing its law in the future.
  • Congress retains the ultimate authority to vote for—or reject—the final trade agreement.
  • Each house of Congress retains the right to withdraw TPA through exercise of its rulemaking authority, and TPA contains a special new procedure providing for consideration of a Consultation and Compliance Resolution to strip TPA if the administration does not consult with Congress or fails to make progress in meeting congressional negotiating objectives.
  • In addition, TPA retains procedures for consideration of a separate resolution to strip TPA.
  • TPA includes improved provisions to ensure that implementing bills include “only such provisions as are strictly necessary or appropriate to implement” trade agreements.
  • TPA states clearly that any commitments that are not disclosed to Congress before an implementing bill is introduced are not part of the agreement approved by Congress and have no force of law.

Finally, the President did not use the U.S.–South Korea free trade agreement to rewrite immigration law. Contrary to some suggestions, the U.S.–South Korea free trade agreement (KORUS) did not expand the L-1 visa program. In a separate letter issued after the agreement was signed, the United States and Korea agreed merely to extend the visa validity period from three to five years for nationals of Korea, consistent with U.S. law, which already authorizes stays of up to seven years, and required no changes to eligibility rules.

NOTE: What is the L-1 visa program? The L-1 visa allows a company abroad to transfer an existing executive or a managerial employee to one of its offices already located in the U.S., or to open an office in the U.S. It is considered an essential tool for retaining and expanding international business in America, and its goal is to facilitate foreign investment and job creation in the U.S. For example, if a foreign corporation wanted to expand into the U.S., the company could apply for a temporary L-1 visa to transfer one of its executives, managers, or someone with specialized knowledge to the U.S. to open the new operation. As the program currently operates, qualified employees entering the U.S. are granted an initial visa for one or three years depending on the type of employee. Requests for extension of stay may be granted until the employee has reached the maximum limit of five or seven years.