08 March 2015 - Fast Track Trade Authority approval needed

It has been a while since the term ‘fast track trade authority’ has been in the news, but it’s back. We are talking about it again because it is being debated on Capitol Hill. Apparently that’s what prompted one reader to send me an email saying “It’s been a while since you have written about this, so please refresh my memory - what is ‘fast track trade authority’?

Well, in a nutshell, ‘fast track trade authority’, which must be passed in Congress and signed by the President, would give our trade negotiators the ability to sit down and negotiate a trade agreement with individual countries or trading blocs. The final agreement would then come to Congress where members would be allowed to only vote yes or no on the entire agreement.

It would not allow members of Congress to begin picking the trade agreement apart, to add or delete or change the language of the deal. Why is this important? Because without ‘fast track trade authority” many countries and trading blocs would not even negotiate with the United States because of their concern that whatever they might agree on with the U.S. negotiators would then be picked apart by Congress, and all the time spent negotiating the agreement would have been a waste of time and they would be back to ground zero.

So, I think it is important to get ‘fast track trade authority’ approved, but it is not happening. Bi-partisan talks on how to speed the trade authority through Congress are deadlocked, and now according to Sen. Orrin Hatch, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, we probably won’t even bring the proposed legislation into debate until April. That is getting very close to finalizing details for a new 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, a very important trade deal for the U.S. in that part of the world. But until we get ‘fast track trade authority’ here, many of those 12 nations really have no confidence that what they hammer out will become a reality when it gets back to the United States.

Like it or not, we are global and I don’t have to emphasize again the importance of trade to all segments of our economy. We cannot exist without trade and I don’t understand why unions are opposed because trade creates millions of jobs.

Let’s just focus on agriculture for a moment. 2009 thru 2014 was the strongest six-year period in agricultural trade history, generating $771-billion of income for the U.S., and 2014 set an all-time one-year record for ag trade…$152-billion that, according to USDA, supported one-million American jobs; and that is just one segment of our economy. Those are reasons enough for me to say Let’s fast-track “fast-track trade authority’ now and get it done sooner rather than later!

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.