Trade office gets budget boost for next year; trade agenda is released

The nation's trade office leading the way on the Obama administration’s ambitious agenda would get a boost in funding under the budget proposal released Tuesday.

The U.S. Trade Representative would get a nearly 7 percent boost in fiscal 2015 to about $56.2 million up from $52.6 million this year, according to President Obama’s latest budget request, which hit Capitol Hill.

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U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said the president’s budget “makes the critical investments that will provide the necessary resources to create new opportunities for American businesses, farmers and entrepreneurs through trade."

Froman has told Congress that the trade office needs more money to ensure it has the staff and travel budget to negotiate global trade agreements.

“Under the president's budget, USTR will be able to properly pursue American jobs by opening markets to Made-in-America products and bolstering our ability to level the playing field for our workers by standing up for our rights in the global trading system," Froman said.

He said the Obama administration's trade policy is "part of a broader strategy, reflected in the president's budget, for creating jobs and sustainable growth.”

The budget release hit the same day the White House delivered its 2014 trade agenda to Congress.

The aim is to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations this year with the 11 other nations involved.

As part of that effort, the White House called on Congress to "support broad bipartisan passage of trade promotion authority (TPA)."

Trade officials also plan to make major progress on a deal with the 28-nation European Union, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), as well as the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA).

Business groups, which support an expanded trade agenda, said TPA remains a top priority for them.

Business Roundtable, representing CEOs of leading U.S. companies, said TPA is essential to ensure the trade deals benefit the broader U.S. economy.

"Congress and the White House need to work together to pass modernized trade promotion authority as soon as possible," said Doug Oberhelman, Chairman and CEO of Caterpillar.

John Murphy, vice president of international affairs with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, joined that chorus calling for renewal of fast-track authority.

“TPA is based on the commonsense idea that the executive and legislative branches of our government need to work together on trade agreements,” he wrote in a blog post on Tuesday.

Fast-track is designed to smooth the process for any trade deal reaching Capitol Hill. The authority gives Congress a chance to detail their objectives for trade agreements while agreeing to take an up-or-down vote once a deal is inked by the trade negotiators.

"In addition to expanding market access for U.S. exports, these agreements will establish new rules and protections in areas such as intellectual property that are vital to American innovation and competitiveness," Murphy wrote.

He said the Chamber also is pressing for bilateral investment treaties (BITs) with China and India and is exploring the possibility of BIT negotiations with Indonesia, Russia and the East African Community. In the long term that could include Brazil, Turkey and Egypt, too.

The Chamber, along with other groups, also are pressing for Congress to renew the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB), both of which lapsed months ago. 

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