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Senate Starts Debate on Trade

The Senate voted on Thursday to begin debating legislation that would give President Obama the power to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement with 11 Pacific Rim nations.

After approving legislation to crack down on currency manipulation in partner countries, Senators voted 65-33 in favor of moving forward on debating fast-track trade promotion authority—quite a different outcome than Tuesday’s 52-45 vote that blocked consideration of TPA.

“Under our plan, the Senate will avoid the poison pills that have been floated in favor of the very type of bipartisan approach we have been advocating all along,” said Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. “It allows Senators to express themselves without endangering more American trade jobs for the people we represent.”

Senators passed two trade measures Thursday, The Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015 and the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, and the motion to start the TPA talks.

The Trade Preferences Extension Act includes renewing the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program and removes a restriction that keeps travel goods, like backpacks and handbags from being considered for GSP eligibility. It also includes a ten-year renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), and fixes to outdated classifications of certain types of athletic footwear.

According to the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) president and CEO Juanita D. Duggan, “The Senate took a huge step today in advancing a number of important trade measures. AAFA is pleased that the Senate will begin debate on TPA, which is key to concluding trade agreements with Europe and the Pacific Rim. These trade agreements will help U.S. industries like ours access new markets and new customers.”

Duggan added, “We are also pleased to see that among today’s trade votes, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to pass a package that will renew a number of trade preferences. Renewal of these trade preferences will provide an immediate benefit to our members. Among the measures included in the Senate trade preferences bill is the renewal and update of the GSP program, a program that has expired and is costing small businesses approximately $2 million a day.”

In a statement Thursday, the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) said, “As the Senate now moves to consider another trade package including Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) and Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), NCTO urges the chamber to pass a clean TPA bill without harmful amendments that will damage U.S. textile jobs, manufacturing, and exports.”