WASHINGTON — House Ways and Means committee chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.) issued a “call to action” to President Obama on Thursday to get more personally engaged in building support for trade promotion authority and warned he will not support a cornerstone of Obama’s trade agenda — the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal — without it.
Camp, who wields power in the perch of the committee overseeing trade and tax policy, forcefully staked out his position in a speech hosted by the Global Business Dialogue, in an apparent attempt to reignite what many have said is a stalled trade agenda. Camp cosponsored a bipartisan, bicameral TPA bill introduced in Congress in January that has since stalled.
Camp’s criticism of Obama, whom he said has been “notably silent” on TPA, comes at an important time for the U.S., which is negotiating two significant trade deals — TPP with 11 other countries and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union.
TPA, which expired in 2007 under President George W. Bush, is seen as vital to completing trade deals. Under TPA, Congress does not have the ability to amend trade pacts negotiated by the executive branch and can only vote up or down on them. Since Congress cannot amend a trade deal under TPA, it is seen as a leveraging tool for the U.S. at the negotiating table.
“If the administration wants my support for TPP, it will ensure we have TPA before concluding TPP,” Camp said. “And if it wants my support for TPA, it will not conclude TPP first.” “We won’t get TPA through Congress until [Obama] is actively and personally engaged.”
The TPP has faced significant hurdles, ranging from opposition from a large swath of House Democrats calling for a strong and enforceable labor safeguard in the trade deal to what many claim is intransigence on the part of negotiating partner Japan to fully open its auto and agricultural markets. Camp suggested it might be time for the TPP countries to continue the negotiations without Japan until the country is ready to make the necessary commitments to open up its markets, particularly in the auto and agricultural sector.
Vietnam is also considered an obstacle in the TPP talks because it is said to be opposed to the U.S.-proposed yarn-forward rule of origin, according to industry sources. The rule requires apparel be made of fabric and yarns supplied by the U.S. or other TPP partner countries to qualify for duty-free benefits. Vietnam uses a significant amount of yarns and fabrics from China in its apparel production that would not qualify for duty-free benefits.
Asked whether he expects any movement from Vietnam on a textile rule of origin, Camp said not until the U.S. has TPA.
“In order to get the best deal possible, we have to have this commitment on TPA or countries aren’t going to make the best offers,” Camp said. “So I think we need to continue to work with Vietnam on that issue.”