TPA 2015

April 23, 2015

April 23, 2015

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

There is no shortage of serious issues that need to be addressed. To me, the most important one that the Congress is teeing up is Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). Last week, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Hatch (Utah) and ranking Democrat on that Committee Ron Wyden (Oregon) struck a deal. Now, the Senate and House need to pass TPA and send it to President Obama for his signature.

TPA authorizes the President to negotiate trade agreements. Once they are agreed upon by the other countries, they can then be passed or rejected by our Congress. Amendments to the agreements are not allowed. Take it or leave it!

Although we have not passed TPA, the trade negotiation process is well underway. We are negotiating a Pacific Rim agreement involving 11 countries totaling more than $400 billion in trade; also, a Trans Atlantic agreement between the U.S. and Europe. That would boost world income by more than $100 billion. Trade deals are a way to reduce tariffs and trade barriers. The U.S. agricultural industry would be positioned to expand our market dramatically.

Here is how it works. TPA is passed and signed. Then, the two trade agreements can be completed. They are then voted on separately by our Congress. No amendments are allowed. Other countries would not negotiate in good faith with us if after the deal was agreed to the Congress could change it. It’s pass or fail.

Success is not certain. President Obama really wants this done, but a lot of Democrats are fighting it. Senator Chuck Shumer (New York) – likely to become the Democratic leader of the Senate after the next election – is adamantly opposed to the deal. He said, “I’ve never seen anything like it.” But he has. TPA has been granted to every President going back as far as Gerald Ford. Labor unions are doing all they can to kill the trade deal. On the Republican side, there are some members that don’t want to give President Obama negotiating power. They don’t trust him.

Most Republicans, however, will vote for TPA but they will still need some Democratic votes to get it passed. Farm organizations across the board support the bill – corn, pork, dairy, soy bean, wheat – you name it.

The American Farm Bureau stated, “The U.S. has much to gain through Congressional approval of TPA.”

It’s not done yet. We still need to push it over the goal line.

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Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.