Trade Promotion Authority (TPA): Issues, Options, and Prospects for Renewal [December 5, 2006]   [open pdf - 288KB]

"TPA [Trade Promotion Authority] reflects years of debate, cooperation, and compromise between Congress and the Executive Branch. Congress has express constitutional authority to impose duties and regulate foreign commerce, while the President has the sole authority to negotiate international agreements and exerts broad power over U.S. foreign policy. TPA arose from a pragmatic need to accommodate these authorities in the conduct of U.S. trade policy, as well as address concerns that constituent pressures can often lead to poor trade policy decisions. The 'Smoot-Hawley' Tariff Act of 1930, for example, raised tariffs significantly, diminishing trade and prolonging the Great Depression. In response, Congress delegated to the President in 1934 authority to negotiate pre-approved reductions in tariff rates. TPA evolved in 1974 from this precedent to allow the President to negotiate non-tariff barriers (NTBs), provided he comply with various congressional requirements set out in the statute. The core provisions of the fast track legislative procedures have remained virtually unchanged since they were first enacted, although Congress has expanded trade negotiation objectives, oversight, and presidential notification requirements. While early versions of fast track/TPA received broad bipartisan support, renewal efforts became increasingly controversial as fears grew over the perceived negative effects of trade, and as the trade debate became more partisan in nature. Congress last renewed TPA in the Trade Act of 2002 following a pitched battle and largely partisan-line vote. Two key issues dominated: labor and environment provisions and guaranteeing a bipartisan congressional role in trade policy making."

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CRS Report for Congress, RL33743
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