Business groups back fast-track effort on trade

Businesses groups on Tuesday pressed the Senate to open a debate on giving President Obama fast-track trade authority.

The National Retail Federation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce each said they would score big votes on trade issues, including a vote slated for Tuesday afternoon to move forward on fast-track, also known as trade promotion authority (TPA).

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“For the retail industry, trade agreements help lower costs for American families and businesses alike and open new investment opportunities for retailers at home and abroad,” said David French, NRF’s senior vice president for government relations.

The NRF and the Chamber said they will include all trade votes into their annual voting scorecards. 

“This TPA bill reflects many of the best ideas in contemporary trade policy,” said Bruce Josten, the Chamber's executive vice president for government affairs.

“There is nothing ‘fast’ about the manner in which this bill was prepared, and it plainly reflects input from many quarters,” Josten said.  

If passed by Congress, fast-track would give Congress an up-or-down vote on global agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). 

Battle lines hardened on Tuesday ahead of the vote, and it is unclear whether the procedural motion will be successful.

Bill Lane, global government affairs director for Caterpillar, said the importance of Tuesday’s procedural vote could not be over-exaggerated. 

“This is a referendum on whether the U.S. wants to look outward or turn inward,” Lane told The Hill. 

“If this goes down is says that Congress wants to look inward,” he said. 

Lane said that getting fast-track passed is always hard but “once it’s in place it allows the U.S. to do big things.”