Tech industry rallies around 'fast-track' push

Virtually every major tech industry trade group in Washington is rallying to urge Congress to pass “fast-track” trade authority.

Eight industry groups representing giants like Google and Microsoft, as well as thousands of smaller companies, wrote to leaders of the House and Senate on Thursday praising the “tremendous opportunity” presented by new trade deals with Europe and Asia.

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Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) “strengthens our country's negotiating position and provides our negotiating partners the confidence they need to give us their best offers — resulting in the strongest possible agreements for American businesses and workers,” K Street groups including the Internet Association, Consumer Electronics Association and Information Technology Industry Council wrote.

Tech groups have eagerly eyed the prospect of Congress passing fast-track trade authority to give the Obama administration power to negotiate the two pending trade deals. Congress could set the terms of TPA and then would be able to vote only up or down on any trade deals that make their way to Capitol Hill.

Republican control in both chambers of Congress has raised the chances for legislation this year, though some lawmakers — especially Democrats — remain unmoved. The administration has made the issue a priority

The issue is among the tech industry’s top goals. A deal that takes its issues into account could pave the way for easier exports to the 95 percent of the global population that lives outside the U.S., it says, many of whom would be eager to snatch up iPhones and Twitter accounts.

New technology, however, is also leading to new concerns for the tech industry about areas that need to be protected.  

Congress hasn’t passed a TPA bill since 2002, when many of Silicon Valley’s biggest names were still in their infancy or only a twinkle in their founders’ eyes.  

In any new bill, companies want to make sure that they can easily send data back and forth between countries and that companies aren’t punished for information people publish on their website.