President Barack Obama declared in his State of the Union speech, “We need to work together on tools like bipartisan trade promotion authority to protect our workers, protect our environment and open new markets to new goods stamped ‘Made in the USA.’ China and Europe aren’t standing on the sidelines. Neither should we.”
Republicans agree. But the president has not followed through on his call for legislative action. Giving him trade promotion authority would put two large trade deals on a fast track to completion.
It appears politics have intruded. The president has given in to members of his party who oppose granting fast-track authority because the trade deals might alienate friendly special-interest groups in an election year. He reportedly did not even mention the issue when speaking to the House Democratic Caucus at its annual retreat. Then Vice President Joe Biden, addressing the same group, said the White House would be backing off the issue in deference to Democrats’ political concerns.
After five years of economic stagnation and high unemployment, we should be seizing every opportunity to create more jobs and get the economy growing at a faster pace. We could do that today in both the Senate and House by passing legislation giving the president the authority to wrap up the two trade pacts — all without adding a dime to the deficit.
Presidents of both parties have in the past used trade promotion authority to negotiate trade agreements that help American farmers, ranchers, entrepreneurs and job creators gain access to new consumers around the globe. By renewing the authority, which expired in 2007, Congress sets the rules for the proposed trade agreements and, in return, agrees to allow for a straight up-or-down vote when the agreements come before it.