Hatch says trade an area where GOP, Obama can work together

A top Senate Republican said on Monday that tackling trade policy represents a way for a Republican-controlled Congress and the White House to work together on an ambitious agenda.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who is expected to take the helm of the Senate Finance Committee, said passing trade promotion authority (TPA) is not only an avenue to completing two massive trade deals — the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) — but is a place where Republicans can work with President Obama

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"Renewing TPA and advancing other parts of our trade agenda also represents an opportunity for a fully Republican Congress to work with the administration," he said during remarks at a Financial Services Roundtable event.  

"So, trade will almost certainly take up much of the Finance Committee’s agenda as next year gets underway."

Supporters argue that the 12-nation TPP, which includes nations from Chile to Japan, and the efforts between the U.S. and the European Union to forge a trade deal are key to boosting the nation's economic growth. 

Hatch said without TPA, also known as fast-track, "these efforts to expand market access will not succeed."

Fast-track allows Congress to vote on trade deals on up or down votes and without amendment.

Last week, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said trade issues will continue to require both parties in the next Congress.

Froman said that the Obama administration has been “comforted by the messages we've heard from Republican leadership” on their desire to work together on trade.

Meanwhile, there is growing discontent among Democrats on Capitol who are pushing back against granting President Obama the trade powers.

Some House Democrats, along with labor unions, are pushing back against those fast-track authority efforts heading into the 114th Congress..

Recently, Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) said that the focus should turn to the substance of TPP and away from fast-track.

"The main way to signal other countries that there will be support of members of Congress is to deeply involve members of Congress in the discussion and the resolution of those issues," he said.

"Moving TPA without a clear role for Congress and a clear understanding of these issues might well mean that TPA will fail."