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Trade Promotion Authority Legislation Introduced

Congress’ Finance Committee and Ways and Means leaders introduced Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation Thursday, setting the ground rules for how trade deals will get done and giving President Obama authority to negotiate the largest trade deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The agreement will also facilitate movement on the in-negotiation Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP).

TPP, the proposed trade agreement between the United States, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, is designed to enhance trade and investment among the partner countries and promote economic growth and development.

The United States and European Union are continuing negotiations on T-TIP, which would reduce—and in some cases remove—tariffs or taxes applied to imports between the two markets.

Together the two trade deals would further open markets encompassing nearly 1.3 billion customers and roughly 60 percent of global gross domestic product, according to World Bank data.

TPA, or fast-track authority, which expired in 2007, lets the president present a trade agreement before Congress for a straight up or down vote without amendment.

Kaitlin Singhilofi from the Office of Representative Charles Boustany Jr (R-LA) said Tuesday at the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) Strategic Sourcing, Customs and Logistics Integration Conference that some TPA legislation would be introduced this week, adding, “TPA is going to kick off this whole year of trade.”

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According to the Finance Committee, TPA-2015 establishes new trade-negotiating objectives that consider today’s economic challenges, including measures to combat currency manipulation and eliminate barriers to innovation and digital trade. Other updates address the government’s involvement in cyber theft, calls for provisions to protect intellectual property, promote human rights and strengthen labor and environment protection.

In response to the announced legislation, AAFA president and CEO Juanita D. Duggan said, “In a global economy where 95 percent of our customers live outside the U.S., access to markets and materials is critical to the health of U.S. clothing and shoe companies. The apparel and footwear industry, which supports four million trade-dependent U.S. jobs and contributes $361 billion to the economy in retail sales, has long been supporters of eliminating trade barriers so that our products and inputs can easily move across borders.”

She added, “Today’s news that a bipartisan bill on Trade Promotion Authority was introduced is a very welcome development. Congressional approval of TPA will be an important precursor toward completion of the pending trade deals with Europe and the Pacific Rim. Equally important, Congressional consideration of TPA paves the way for renewing expired and expiring trade measures such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). We hope Congress approves these and other measures, which are vital for our members in reducing costs, promoting investment, and supporting trade-based jobs, both in the United States and abroad.”

Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA) president Matt Priest said, “In our meetings on the Hill, we have heard from Members who are very supportive of our position, and I know we have some great advocates in Congress for our industry. I am positive we will see this passed, hopefully clearing the way for the conclusion of TPP negotiations soon thereafter.”

TPA-2015 also modifies TPA procedures to enhance the Executive Branch’s accountability, further strengthen congressional oversight and creates a new mechanism for the removal of expedited procedures for a trade agreement if the agreement doesn’t meet TPA requirements.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who introduced the news said, “This is a smart, bipartisan compromise that will help move America forward. The renewal of TPA will help American workers and job creators unlock new opportunities for growth and promote better, higher-paying jobs here at home. If we want to maintain our nation’s economic leadership and promote American values around the world, we must reach beyond our borders, and this bill is a strong first step.”