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On a trade trip in Japan, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) was confident Congress will renew trade promotion authority (TPA) in the next few months:
"We're very close, we're in the 11th hour of negotiating the final pieces of TPA," Ryan, in Tokyo with a Congressional delegation for negotiations, told a news conference ahead of a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
"Once those negotiations are wrapped up we anticipate moving ... fairly quickly, and that's really this spring," he said.
John Murphy, Senior Vice President for International Policy at the U.S. Chamber, told me that TPA isn’t a free pass for the president to do what he wants on trade deals. What it actually does is strengthen Congress’ role in trade negotiations like those underway on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP):
TPA is all about ensuring Congress has a voice on trade. Without it, the White House would set its own negotiating objectives, and officials may consult with Congress only if and when it’s convenient to do so. TPA lets Congress set the negotiating goals and sets detailed consultation requirements for the White House.
Rep. Ryan understands this. In a recent speech in Washington, he explained that TPA empowers Congress:
I think of it more as a contract. We say to the administration, if you want this up-or-down vote, you have to meet three requirements: Number one, you have to follow our guidelines. Number two, you have to talk to us. And number three, you have to remember: We get the final say.
“To drive home this point, the TPA bill introduced last year was entitled the ‘Congressional Trade Priorities Act,’” Murphy added, “TPA strengthens the role of Congress on trade.”