Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and Its Role in U.S. Trade Policy [July 20, 2011] [open pdf - 225KB]
"Congress created Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) in the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to help workers and firms adjust to economic dislocation that may be caused by trade liberalization. Although most economists agree that there are substantial national gains from trade, backers of TAA argue that the government has an obligation to help those hurt by policy-driven trade opening. In addition, as an alternative to policies that might otherwise restrict imports, it can provide assistance, while supporting freer trade and diminishing prospects for potentially costly tension (retaliation) among trade partners. Often controversial, it is still strongly debated some 50 years later, on equity, efficiency, and budgetary grounds, but may still serve a pragmatic legislative function. For those Members concerned with the negative effects of trade, it can provide a countervailing response to help maintain what is often slim majority support of highly contested trade legislation. For these reasons, it has been central to U.S. trade policy for the past half century. […] Opponents of TAA consider it a costly and ineffective response to dislocation from imports, and so would like to see it debated and voted on as a separate bill. Supporters of TAA and especially the extended The American Recovery and The investment Act (ARRA) benefits (now lapsed) see the implementing bill as perhaps the best, if not only opportunity, to reauthorize TAA in the near future, given resistance in a Congress intently focused on deficit reduction. Those supporting TAA and not the U.S.-South Korea (KORUS) Free Trade Agreement (FTA) might also prefer to see separate votes on the two issues."
CRS Report for Congress, R41922