Camp says trade agenda at risk without fast-track

A top House Republican said Thursday that wrapping up work on the Obama administration’s ambitious trade agenda will be impossible without trade promotion authority (TPA).

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said that trade promotion authority, also known as fast-track, must be passed before finalizing any major agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

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"To do otherwise creates the very real risk that Congress will not and should not support the trade agreement," he told the Global Business Dialogue association.

Without TPA, he said U.S. trade negotiators run the risk of inking a subpar deal and that Congress will see the conclusion of any trade agreement without it as “trumping congressional prerogatives and negotiating objectives and ignoring its constitutional role."

"If the administration wants my support for TPP, it will ensure we have TPA before concluding TPP," he said.

"If it wants my support for TPA, it will not conclude TPP first."

Camp’s comments echo those made at a trade subcommittee hearing last week when Republicans warned that failing to complete TPA will put the Pacific deal at risk in Congress.

“We have to have trade promotion authority, or we could very well kill TPP in its infancy,” said Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Ways and Means subcommittee on trade.

Camp blamed lack of progress on trade authority on President Obama, who has been “notably silent” on the issue.

"We won’t get TPA through Congress unless he is actively and personally engaged,” Camp said.  

He urged Republicans, Democrats, the White House and the business community to continue working toward completing a TPA bill.

Camp introduced a measure in January with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and former Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) that immediately ran into opposition from congressional Democrats.

To that end, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has said he is working with lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol to rework that legislation to the satisfaction of a bipartisan majority. 

But he hasn't announced a timetable to complete those talks.

Also, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman has offered assurances that U.S. trade negotiators won't sign off on any trade deal unless it meets its high standards, including the elimination of all tariffs.

However, negotiations are continuing toward completing an agreement as Congress deliberates over a TPA bill.

Camp said the United States “will be unable to realize the significant economic boost” from the Trans-Pacific Partnership the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) unless fast-track authority is passed.

“Without TPA, our negotiators’ hands are tied. While you can certainly make progress without it, no administration can get the absolute best possible deal for the American people without it," he said.

He said while some Democrats may prefer to wait until after the November elections, support must be built up now so that the measure can be completed during the lame-duck session.

Besides TPA, Camp said he still remains deeply concerned that Japan won’t remove agricultural and tariffs or open its market to more U.S. auto exports as part of the trade deal.

"Japan has been closed for too long, and it is time we finally get real access to its markets,” he said.  

“We cannot move forward on TPP with Japan until it commits to fully eliminate agricultural tariffs.”

He also expressed concern about Canada’s insistence in the TPP on “maintaining its steep barriers on dairy and poultry."

Plus there is plenty of other work to be done on the deal, including on state-owned enterprises, investor-state dispute settlement, intellectual property protections and currency disciplines.  

“We must have high standards to get congressional support for the agreement. A bad deal will not, and should not, pass Congress," Camp said.

He said that the U.S.-EU negotiations present an enormous opportunity to eliminate all tariffs and that TiSA has the potential to increase jobs and economic growth here.

Meanwhile, Camp said his committee will be working on renewing the Generalized System of Preferences, on how to improve the African Growth and Opportunity Act before it expires in 15 months, and on a customs bill and Miscellaneous Tariff Bill.

"The goals I have laid out are ambitious, but they are within reach,” he said.  

“This agenda requires hard bipartisan, bicameral work in Congress, the administration’s commitment, and active engagement from everyone in the room here today."