Kerry presses for trade as lawmakers continue work on fast-track bill

The Obama administration on Wednesday persisted in its lobbying effort for expanded trade while congressional lawmakers continued their battle over legislation to streamline passage of any agreements.

Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryOvernight Defense: Pompeo clears Senate panel, on track for confirmation | Retired officers oppose Haspel for CIA director | Iran, Syria on agenda for Macron visit Senate must save itself by confirming Mike Pompeo Pompeo faces pivotal vote MORE argued that trade promotion authority (TPA) is key to locking in a deal on the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which will boost growth of the U.S. economy.

ADVERTISEMENT
He said the negotiators need assurances that the deal won't be subject to renegotiation by Congress.

"So we actually hurt ourselves in achieving our larger interests of trade and growing our markets if we wind up trying to micromanage it through congressional day-to-day without the TPA," Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday. 

"TPA is what actually empowers the negotiators to be able to close a deal and allow those leaders and other countries to make the tough decisions they need to make," he said.

The Obama administration hopes to win fast-track authority for TPP and any other agreements, which would allow the deals to go through Congress on an up-or-down vote.

Kerry also highlighted the economic advantages of the TPP and another deal with the European Union as "far more critical to American jobs, to American growth, to America's influence, to America's ability to continue to play the important leadership role we have played in the world.”

Meanwhile, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump struggles to get new IRS team in place Romney forced into GOP primary for Utah Senate nomination Romney won't commit yet to supporting Trump in 2020 MORE (R-Utah) postponed a trade hearing scheduled for Thursday while an agreement on TPA remains elusive.

Hatch, Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTrump struggles to get new IRS team in place CIA declassifies memo on nominee's handling of interrogation tapes Dem senators demand Trump explain ties to Koch brothers MORE (D-Ore.) and House Ways and Means Committe Chairman Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanWatchdog group sues for donor list from Ryan-aligned nonprofit Terminating Budget Committees not as absurd as it sounds The writing is on the wall for bump stocks and Congress should finalize it MORE (R-Wis.) have been working to produce a bipartisan measure.

There were some expectations that it would be done by the end of the month but it became clear this week that talks would continue because of Wyden's concerns over transparency and other issues.

"Given concerns expressed by Sen. Wyden, we're going to postpone tomorrow's hearing and continue our discussion on how best to advance America’s trade agenda, including legislation to renew job-creating trade promotion authority,” Hatch said in a statement.

Last week, an aide to Wyden had called the hearing "premature." 

Meanwhile, opposition to trade promotion authority continued to grow.

Dozens of nurses are set to join Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), a vocal opponent of TPA, for a Thursday news conference over their concerns to the public health.

Democrats opposed to TPA say it will mean a loss of U.S. jobs and wages because it doesn't give Congress enough input to shape the deals.

Meanwhile, the National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson sent a letter to Congress on Wednesday to ask for support for his group’s "steadfast opposition to trade promotion authority.”

He argued that TPA would remove a constitutional check on the president’s power to negotiate trade deals and the agreements should be subjected to more congressional review and not worked out behind closed doors.

Johnson pointed to currency manipulation as a main reason why the U.S. trade deficit has grown significantly over the years and that a framework for the issue should be included in any agreements.

Currency is a huge bipartisan concern and lawmakers have urged the administration to press for adding currency provisions into the trade deals.

But President Obama has said that the inclusion of currency rules would complicate the agreement and could hamper the completion of the talks.

Earlier this month, a bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers introduced currency legislation that would punish countries that manipulate their currency to gain a global trade advantage.