By Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) - 11/03/15 08:15 PM EST
In early October, the Obama administration announced conclusion of negotiations to create the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) consisting of 12 nations across the Asia-Pacific region. Trade advocates cautiously welcomed this long-awaited news because they understand what’s at stake.
A high-standard TPP has the potential to provide significant opportunities to U.S. workers and consumers while helping to expand economic growth throughout the region.
After all, according to the World Trade Organization (WTO), since President Obama took office in 2009, nations across the world have notified the WTO that they have entered into more than 110 bilateral or regional trade agreements. The United States, however, has signed zero, leaving U.S. workers at a significant disadvantage in much of the world.
That’s why earlier this year, Congress passed and the president signed the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act, which renewed trade promotion authority (TPA) and set the stage for the conclusion and passage of high-standard trade agreements, including a potential TPP.
But make no mistake: TPA does not guarantee approval for the TPP or any trade agreement. That’s because not all trade agreements meet the TPA criteria and not every trade deal is a good deal.
In fact, quickly following the announcement that TPP negotiators had reached a deal, a number of initial reports signaled potential trouble for congressional approval.
Fortunately, TPA equips Congress and the American people with powerful tools to thoroughly examine and scrutinize proposed trade agreements to decide if they deserve to be supported and implemented.
For example, the TPA law not only sets forth a number of high-standard objectives that the administration must meet for any trade agreement but also establishes numerous measures to enhance transparency during the review process and ensure accountability if the agreement falls short.
During the TPP’s robust review process, the administration should expect to address three key concerns.
First, the deal must meet the negotiating objectives embodied in our TPA law.
These objectives were formulated through years of stakeholder dialogue and became final only after careful, bipartisan deliberation in both the House and Senate. They represent not only congressional policy priorities but also the careful political balance that must be achieved for an agreement to be considered and approved by Congress.
Right now, it is not clear whether the TPP meets the high standards laid out in the TPA statute. Congress is still waiting to see the final details of the agreement.
Second, we must make sure our TPP partners are prepared to live up to the agreement.
Too often the United States does not reap the full benefits of our trade agreements because administrations, both Republican and Democratic, have allowed agreements to enter into force without first ensuring that our trading partners have met, and will meet, their commitments under the agreement.
This is especially true when it comes to the protection of U.S. intellectual property rights. Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s track record on securing strong outcomes for American innovators is weak.
Moving forward, the administration must push hard for detailed assurances regarding how our TPP partners will meet their obligations to protect intellectual property and other commitments before Congress considers the agreement.
Third, the administration must work closely with Congress throughout this process.
Lawmakers and the American people need ample time to review the package. Nothing less than full cooperation will be acceptable.
Like many, I am immensely concerned that the administration may have missed a pivotal opportunity with the TPP to get the best deal possible for the American people. I hope that I am wrong.
It’s now up to the administration to follow both the letter and the spirit of the law while it works to convince Congress and the American public that this agreement maximizes benefits for U.S. businesses, workers and consumers.
We have only one chance to enact the right TPP. Congress must be convinced that this deal is it.
Hatch is Utah’s senior senator, serving since 1977. He is chairman of the Finance Committee, and he sits on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and the Judiciary committees.