Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) and the Role of Congress in Trade Policy [April 7, 2011] [open pdf - 292KB]
"On July 1, 2007, Trade Promotion Authority (TPA--previously fast track), expired. TPA is the authority Congress grants to the President to enter into certain reciprocal (free) trade agreements (FTAs), and to have their implementing bills considered under expedited legislative procedures, provided he observes certain statutory obligations in negotiating them. TPA defines how Congress has chosen to exercise its constitutional authority over a particular aspect of trade policy, while presumably giving the President added leverage to exercise his authority to negotiate trade agreements by effectively assuring U.S. trade partners that final agreements will be given swift and unamended consideration. [...] The prospects for renewing TPA are unclear and depend on one's perspective as to whether having TPA in place benefits the U.S. negotiation position. Technically, TPA is not necessary to begin or even conclude trade negotiations, but it is widely understood to be a key element of getting a trade implementing bill passed in Congress, and so its renewal can be construed as signaling U.S. support for moving ahead with trade negotiations. When Congress decides to consider the issue, it has many options including: take no action; extend temporarily; revise and renew; grant permanent authority; or devise some hybrid solution. How this issue plays out depends on a host of political and economic variables, including congressional action on restoring a 'political compact' that sits at the center of a well functioning TPA process."
CRS Report for Congress, RL33743
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