Renew Trade Negotiating Authority
To secure new market-opening trade agreements, Congress must renew the traditional trade negotiating authority that every president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has enjoyed. Sometimes called “trade promotion authority” or “fast track,” this trade negotiating authority gives the United States a seat at the table in international trade negotiations. However, this authority lapsed in 2007.
Trade negotiating authority is a historic compromise between the executive and legislative branches of the federal government. The U.S. Constitution gives the Congress authority to regulate international commerce, but it gives the president authority to negotiate with foreign governments. Trade negotiating authority permits the executive branch to negotiate agreements in consultation with the Congress; when an agreement is reached, Congress may approve or reject it, but not amend it.
Without this negotiating authority, the United States will be left on the sidelines as other nations negotiate trade agreements without us—as happened after this authority lapsed between 1994 and 2003. Without trade negotiating authority, no foreign government will engage in serious trade negotiations with Washington without some guarantee that Congress won’t run roughshod over commitments made by the executive branch.
Today, 319 regional trade agreements (as the WTO calls bilateral or plurilateral FTAs) are in force around the globe today, but the United States has FTAs with just 20 countries. There are more than 100 bilateral and regional trade agreements currently under negotiation among our trading partners. Unfortunately, the United States is participating in just one of these (the Trans-Pacific Partnership).
The United States cannot afford to stand still as foreign governments write the rules of international trade and our businesses are placed at a competitive disadvantage in market after market. If we do, American workers and farmers will pay the price.
Trade negotiating authority must be structured to ensure that Congress plays an active role in negotiations. This authority should give Congress a voice in establishing negotiating objectives that is equal to that of the president. During negotiations, the executive branch should be required to engage in meaningful consultations with Congress. By approving this authority, Congress does not give up its right to review trade agreements carefully, and legislators have the final say in whether to accept or reject the resulting agreements.
However, if trade negotiating authority is not renewed, it will tie the president’s hands and close the door to agreements that promise to open overseas markets and spur U.S. economic growth. Not only does this deny the president a critical tool in his diplomatic toolbox — it means American workers, farmers, and companies will continue to be shut out of lucrative foreign markets.
- Trade negotiating authority is an indispensable tool for advancing U.S. economic and foreign policy interests, and no president should be without it.
- This authority should be structured to ensure that Congress plays an active role in establishing negotiating objectives, and the executive branch must engage in meaningful consultations with Congress.