Legislation to reauthorize Trade Promotion Authority (“TPA”), sometimes called “fast track,” was introduced as the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA- 2015; H.R. 1890/S. 995) on April 16, 2015. The legislation was reported by the Senate Finance Committee on April 22, 2015, and by the House Ways and Means Committee the next day. TPA, as incorporated into H.R. 1314 by substitute amendment, passed the Senate on May 22 by a vote of 62-37. In the House of Representatives, the measure was voted on under a procedure known as “division of the question,” which requires separate votes on each component, but approval of both to pass. Voting on June 12, TPA (Title I) passed by a vote of 219-211, but TAA (Title II) was defeated 126-302. A motion to reconsider that vote was laid by Speaker Boehner shortly after that vote. The previous grant of authority expired on July 1, 2007.
TPA requires that if the President negotiates an international trade agreement that would reduce tariff or non-tariff barriers to trade in ways that require changes in U.S. law, the United States can implement the agreement only through the enactment of legislation. If the trade agreement and the process of negotiating it meet certain requirements, TPA allows Congress to consider the required implementing bill under expedited (“fast track”) procedures, pursuant to which the bill may come to the floor without action by the leadership, and can receive a guaranteed up-or-down vote with no amendments.
Under TPA, an implementing bill may be eligible for this expedited consideration if (1) the trade agreement was negotiated during the limited time period for which TPA is in effect; (2) the agreement advances a series of U.S. trade negotiating objectives specified in the TPA statute; (3) the negotiations were conducted in conjunction with an extensive array of required notifications to and consultations with Congress and other stakeholders; and (4) the President submits to Congress a draft implementing bill, which must meet specific content requirements, and a range of required supporting information. If, in any given case, Congress judges that these requirements have not been met, TPA provides mechanisms through which the eligibility of the implementing bill for expedited consideration may be withdrawn in one or both chambers.
The most recent previous renewal of TPA covered agreements reached between December 2002 and the end of June 2007. Current legislation would apply to agreements reached before July 1, 2018, with a possible extension to July 1, 2021. The United States is now engaged in several sets of trade agreement negotiations. Legislation to reauthorize TPA was introduced, but not considered, in the 113th Congress.
The issue of TPA reauthorization raises a number of questions regarding TPA itself and the pending legislation. This report addresses a number of those questions that are frequently asked, including the following:
- What is trade promotion authority?
- Is TPA necessary?
- What are trade negotiating objectives and how are they reflected in TPA statutes?
- What requirements does Congress impose on the President under TPA?
- Does TPA affect congressional authority on trade policy?