WASHINGTON — Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) said he plans to move Trade Promotion Authority legislation quickly this year, while also placing an emphasis on renewing and reauthorizing two trade preference programs, in a major speech on the panel’s agenda before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday.
Hatch outlined an ambitious agenda that included tax reform as a top priority, in the run-up to President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night. The trade agenda stalled last year due to gridlock on Capitol Hill, but with a Republican takeover in the Senate during the midterm elections and GOP control of the House, trade advocates gained a renewed sense that legislation would advance in the new session of Congress.
“The U.S. is currently engaged in two of the most ambitious trade negotiations in our nation’s history,” Hatch said. “The first is with like-minded countries in the Asia-Pacific region — the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP. The other is with our allies in the European Union — the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or T-TIP. Put simply, TPA is essential if these ambitious trade agreements are going to succeed. And, they must succeed,” Hatch said.
TPA, which expired in 2007 under President Bush, is seen as vital to completing trade deals. Under TPA, Congress can’t amend trade pacts negotiated by the executive branch but only vote up or down on them.
“My plan…is to move carefully but quickly to introduce and mark up a TPA bill,” Hatch said.
He also noted that he’s working closely with Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, and House Ways and Means chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) to make any improvements to an existing legislative proposal in order to introduce bicameral, bipartisan legislation that he hopes to move “in short order.”
“If President Obama can be more forward-leaning with members of his party, starting with tonight’s State of the Union address, I believe we can get this done quickly,” Hatch said. “That is what I am committed to do.”
In addition, Hatch said he also plans to move “sooner rather than later” on several of the fashion industry’s priorities, including renewal of the Generalized System of Preferences that expired in July 2013 and reauthorization of the African Growth & Opportunity Act that’s set to expire Sept. 30.