Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) introduced this bill in the House with bipartisan support. A Senate version was also introduced on a bipartisan basis by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). All three hailed the potential for job creation and economic growth that fast-tracked free trade agreements would facilitate. They also gushed over the improved oversight features.
President Obama has also expressed his support for the bipartisan proposal, vowing to only sign an agreement that helps improve the economic circumstances of ordinary Americans. In the President’s press release, the White House notes that exports currently support 11 million jobs in the U.S., and that 95 percent of global consumers live outside our borders.
The President has pushed back against critics of the trade bill, saying:
“I would not be doing this trade deal if I did not think it was a good deal for the middle class. And when you hear folks making a lot of suggestions about about how bad this trade deal is, when you dig into this bill they are wrong.”
Detractors of this bill have expressed concerns about a lack of safeguards against currency manipulation that can hurt U.S. workers. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) attached an amendment addressing the currency concerns which passed the Senate Finance Committee, as the fast-track bill itself passed on a 20-6 vote. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has criticized the secrecy of negotiations, alleging that she has been told:
“‘We can’t make this deal public because if the American people saw what was in it, they would be opposed to it.’ If the American people would be opposed to a trade agreement if they saw it, then that agreement should not become the law of the U.S.”
Other Democrats like Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) have proposed alternatives that are favored by unions, but Levin’s amendment did not receive a vote in the House Ways and Means Committee while the original bill passed on a 25-13 vote.
Other provisions of the bill include:
An outline for specific industry-related trade objectives for goods, services, agriculture, foreign investment, intellectual property, and digital trade. Goals would also be outlines for reducing regulatory barriers to trade and respecting the environment and workers’ rights, while avoiding currency manipulation.
Congress would be able to appoint a designated congressional adviser for trade policy and negotiations. That adviser would consult with the U.S. Trade Representative negotiating an agreement throughout the process before signing off on an agreement. Congressional advisory groups would also be created (in both chambers) to advise the U.S. Trade Representative on negotiating strategies and positions for trade agreements.
There are two major trade agreements that could be approved under this authority — the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Countries that are involved in TPP negotiations include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the U.S., and Vietnam. The economies of these potential partners combine to account for 40 percent of global GDP or $27.5 trillion, 60 percent of which is attributed to the U.S.
The TTIP would be a trade agreement between the U.S. and the European Union (EU), and the combined GDP of the two economies amounts to about half of the world’s GDP. The U.S. and EU had 2014 GDPs of $17.4 trillion and $18.4 trillion, respectively, according to the International Monetary Fund.
According to estimates cited by The Economist, approving both the TTP and TTIP could boost U.S. GDP by $200 billion per year while global GDP would grow by an additional $400 billion.
Sponsoring Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) Press Release
House Ways and Means Committee Press Release
White House Policy Statement (In Favor)
CBO Cost Estimate
Wall Street Journal
Business Wire (In Favor)
Electronic Frontier Foundation (Opposed)
Summary by Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Flickr user BioDivLibrary)