Council Says Trade Authority to be Major Subject of Debate ‘No Matter the Outcome’ of the Presidential Election
Washington, DC – The National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) today released a draft “Trade Negotiating Authority Act of 2009,” which the Council developed to initiate debate over the appropriate objectives for negotiating trade agreements and an efficient “fast track” process for congressional consideration of implementing legislation. The NFTC’s draft bill, which builds on existing Trade Promotion Authority and includes new provisions that update negotiating objectives and reform the Congressional-Executive consultation process, represents the first U.S. business community effort this year to critically examine Trade Negotiating Authority (TNA) in the context of the next Congress and Administration.
“Trade negotiating authority is vital to the future of U.S. trade policy, no matter the outcome of the election in November,” said NFTC President Bill Reinsch, who unveiled the draft bill during a press roundtable at the NFTC this afternoon. “Regardless of whether we have a President Obama or a President McCain, the new Congress and the new Administration will have to have a trade policy and will have to grapple with what to do about the process for negotiating trade agreements. We are releasing our draft bill today to catalyze that deliberative process.”
Reinsch, continued, “Our bill is based on two fundamental ideas: that our trade policy objectives need to be updated to reflect the demands of a much more competitive global economy, and that a successful trade policy requires close consultation and cooperation between the President and the Congress and between the two political parties.”
Trade Promotion Authority expired June 30, 2007, and the NFTC believes that negotiating authority is a fundamental part of U.S. global economic leadership and should be renewed, with some modifications. The Council’s “Trade Negotiating Authority Act of 2009” includes significant reforms with respect to procedure and negotiating objectives. For example, the draft bill expands congressional authority, as it calls for the creation of Joint Committee on Trade (JCOT) in lieu of a Congressional Oversight Group and requires a JCOT vote of approval before the president can begin an FTA negotiation. In addition, the NFTC draft bill includes transition rules, which clarify that agreements concluded and not acted upon by Congress retain their existing “fast track” status.
With regard to negotiating objectives, the draft “Trade Negotiating Authority Act of 2009,” recognizes that trade is part of a larger set of overall competitiveness issues; focuses on development and maintenance of global supply chains; eliminates most of the sector-specific objectives in previous law; focuses multilateral objectives on moving toward a “two-track” system within the WTO in which countries willing to undertake greater liberalization can do so on a non-MFN basis, and on tougher enforcement of the “substantially all trade” requirement for FTAs; focuses bilateral objectives on countries that would provide the greatest economic benefit or those that would provide useful precedents in areas like investment, regulatory policy, due process, labor and environment; and promotes harmonization of the rules in the various bilateral and regional agreements.
“Last May, Congress and the Administration came together in a bipartisan fashion to craft a new framework for U.S. trade policy. It is our hope that both branches will continue to work together to chart a productive course forward on trade, including renewing and reforming negotiating authority,” Reinsch concluded.