The nation's top trade official made another pitch for updating trade negotiating powers as an Asia-Pacific deal moves toward the finish line.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael FromanMichael B.G. FromanOn The Money: Sanders unveils plan to wipe .6T in student debt | How Sanders plan plays in rivalry with Warren | Treasury watchdog to probe delay of Harriet Tubman bills | Trump says Fed 'blew it' on rate decision Democrats give Trump trade chief high marks US trade rep spent nearly M to furnish offices: report MORE argued that trade promotion authority provides the best avenue for Congress to shape the contents of agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is steadily moving toward completion.
“Trade promotion legislation is the way Congress gives direction to the president about what to negotiate, how to consult with Congress before and during the negotiations and how Congress will decide at the end of the day — after an extensive public debate — whether to support or reject a trade agreement," Froman said Monday in remarks to the National Association of Counties.
"It’s time to update trade promotion legislation to meet the needs of today’s global economy and lock into law the progress we have made on a number of issues, including labor and the environment," he said.
Trade promotion authority legislation was last updated 13 years ago and Froman detailed the reasons why an update is necessary.
"Think about how much the world has changed since then," he said.
Froman said the rise of the digital economy, state-owned enterprises and emerging markets mean the old measure, which expired in 2007, doesn't reflect the rapidly changing global landscape.
“A bipartisan trade promotion bill will do just that, addressing these changes and empowering America to continue leading on trade," he said.
"It will help us use trade policy the right way, bringing good jobs to your communities and unlocking opportunity for the millions of Americans you represent."
He also said that there is agreement that the trade deals must tackle those major issues.
“Consider that there’s now a solid consensus that enforceable labor and environmental standards must be a major part of any trade agreement. In 2002, there was no such consensus," he said.
But the Obama administration's efforts face vehement opposition from House Democrats and labor, faith and environmental groups, which argue that the TPP and other trade deals under negotiation will lead to an evaporation of U.S. jobs and wages.
Cabinet officials, including Commerce Secretary Penny PritzkerPenny Sue PritzkerThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders steamrolls to South Carolina primary, Super Tuesday Biden's new campaign ad features Obama speech praising him Obama Commerce secretary backs Biden's 2020 bid MORE and Agriculture Secretary Tom VilsackTom VilsackUSDA: Farm-to-school programs help schools serve healthier meals OVERNIGHT MONEY: House poised to pass debt-ceiling bill MORE have been traveling the country hawking their trade message to businesses.
Opponents of the trade deals have been on a similar nationwide tour, arguing that the agreements too closely resemble trade policy of old and should be rejected until a new model is put into place.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchMeet Washington's most ineffective senator: Joe Manchin Lobbying world Congress, stop holding 'Dreamers' hostage MORE (R-Utah), panel ranking member Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSanders, 50 Democrats unveil bill to send N95 masks to all Americans Manchin told White House he would back version of billionaire tax: report Democrats look to scale back Biden bill to get it passed MORE (D-Ore.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanOn The Trail: Retirements offer window into House Democratic mood Stopping the next insurrection Former Sen. Bob Dole dies at 98 MORE (R-Wis.) are working on an updated version of the legislation, which is expected to be ready soon.
Last week, Wyden said a planned Thursday trade hearing in the Finance committee was premature because no deal has been struck on trade promotion authority, also known as fast-track.
Fast-track gives Congress an up-or-down vote on an trade deals that reach Capitol Hill.