Business groups keep passage of fast-track high on list of priorities

Business groups still have a big agenda this Congress and trade promotion authority is high on the list of priorities.

Business Roundtable and the National Association of Manufacturers are among the slew of groups that are aggressively pushing for action on fast-track authority before this Congress closes up shop for the year.

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Randall Stephenson, chairman of Business Roundtable and CEO of AT&T, said Tuesday that he hopes to see action during the lame duck session.

“We’re going to be very assertive in trying to get it done in the lame duck,” he said.

His comments came after a BRT survey released on Tuesday showed that CEOs became more pessimistic in the third quarter because major policy initiatives like tax extenders have been left undone. 

He argued that trade is a way to shift the economy into a higher gear.

“Expanding access to global markets is a key manufacturing growth priority, and the NAM continues to push for passage of trade promotion authority legislation as soon as possible," said Chris Moore, NAM's senior director of international business policy.

"Among other things, we are working with members of Congress and in states and congressional districts to make the case for a robust trade agenda that opens markets and levels the playing field overseas for manufacturers and workers in the United States."

The last fast-track law expired in 2007 and the latest measure — introduced in January by a trio of lawmakers — stalled out over Democratic concerns that the legislation didn’t go far enough to address the complicated world of global trade. 

Plus, Stephenson added, every president since Franklin D. Roosevelt has had the authority to negotiate trade deals and send them to Capitol Hill for an up or down vote. 

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is marching on with negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). 

The White House is pushing for a November conclusion to TPP with Obama set to travel to Asia after the elections. 

But House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) among other trade leaders have said that fast-track needs to get done before any trade deal is presented to Congress.

Last week, the campaign against giving Obama fast-track authority grew with about 600 groups saying that negotiating global agreements has outgrown the long-standing process.