Sens. Brown, Casey, Cardin, Stabenow, And Menendez Call On U.S. Trade Rep. To Better Consult Congress On Proposed "Fast Track"

Five Senate Finance Committee Members Not Prepared to Support Current Fast Track Framework, Want Congress to Hold USTR Accountable in TPP and TTIP Negotiations if it Votes to Support Trade Promotion Authority

WASHINGTON, D.C — Today, U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) urged the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to work directly with them and other members of Congress in constructing a consultation framework in advance of any consideration of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), or “fast track.” The five Senate Finance Committee members cited the significance of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) as reasons for Congress and President Obama to form a true partnership in order for the United States to negotiate deals advantageous to American interests.  

“We are not prepared to support TPA legislation that resembles the current framework for consultations or that does not provide mechanisms that enable Congress to hold USTR more accountable throughout the negotiation process or give USTR greater authority to negotiate basic standards on good governance and human rights. Since the Administration is seeking TPA after substantial negotiations have already taken place in the Asia Pacific, we are concerned about giving USTR greater authority without a consultative framework already in place that provides Congress with the necessary confidence that its views will adequately inform USTR’s positions,” the Senators wrote.

The Senators’ letter to USTR Froman can be read in its entirety below:

Dear Ambassador Froman:

Press reports indicate that the Administration plans to prioritize renewal of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) in January. As Members of the Senate Committee on Finance who have long been engaged in U.S. trade policy, we ask that you commit to working directly with us, and other members of the Committee, on topics important to us as we work to ensure that the proposal that the Administration ultimately seeks and supports can improve the outcome of trade agreements for American workers, producers, and innovators.

President Obama’s trade agenda is unparalleled in recent history.  The scope and the magnitude of the potential impact of the negotiations with the Asia Pacific and with Europe cannot be understated, but it is critical that these negotiations result in agreements that are balanced and reflect the best interests of the American people.   

To ensure a proper balance, there must be a productive partnership between Congress and the President as these ambitious agreements conclude and the Administration engages in future trade negotiations.  We remain concerned by the lack of progress being made in the Trans-Pacific Partnership on a number of key priorities raised by several Senators, and it is particularly troubling that some of our potential trading partners have been regressing on human rights in recent years.        

We believe that a new congressional-executive framework should be the foundation for the potential grant of TPA renewal and any subsequent trade agreement.  Since TPA provides the statutory requirements for how USTR will consult with Congress far into the future, it should represent an approach that is much better than that which is employed today, particularly at critical stages before and during trade negotiations.  We are not prepared to support TPA legislation that resembles the current framework for consultations or that does not provide mechanisms that enable Congress to hold USTR more accountable throughout the negotiation process or give USTR greater authority to negotiate basic standards on good governance and human rights. Since the Administration is seeking TPA after substantial negotiations have already taken place in the Asia Pacific, we are concerned about giving USTR greater authority without a consultative framework already in place that provides Congress with the necessary confidence that its views will adequately inform USTR’s positions.

Restoring a true partnership between Congress and the Administration on trade policy requires improved consultations and the ability for Congress and the USTR to be held accountable to achieving trade agreements that address the priorities of the American economy.

We look forward to hearing from you.

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