WASHINGTON — Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D. Ore.), the ranking Democrat on the panel, said today they are close to reaching a compromise deal on Trade Promotion Authority legislation and could have a deal in hand by this afternoon.
“We are in my opinion close to reaching an agreement on Trade Promotion Authority, Trade Adjustment Assistance and other trade programs,” Hatch said. “We’re not quite there but I hope and expect we will be soon.”
TPA is seen as vital to completing several trade deals, particularly the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement negotiations between the U.S. and 11 other countries, which the administration has said it is close to completing. Under TPA, Congress can only vote up or down on a trade agreement, which gives the administration leverage with trading partners. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the U.S. and European Union is another key trade negotiation underway.
Industry trade groups have been anxiously awaiting the introduction of TPA legislation and lobbying lawmakers to advance market-opening trade deals, particularly TPP, which includes Vietnam, the second largest apparel supplier to the U.S.
Hatch said the committee would reconvene at 3:00 this afternoon with what he hopes will be the outlines of a deal on TPA and other measures.
Wyden said they are close to “finding common ground” but stressed an agreement must include not only TPA but “other vital issues” such as TAA, a program that helps workers displaced by U.S. trade, and enforcement measures.
“It may be the best procedural approach for these provisions to be passed as separate bills, but they must be on parallel tracks,” Wyden said. “Both TPA and TAA must make it to the president’s desk for signature.”
Hatch said he would agree to that demand and said he expects to set a committee markup on TPA legislation, if a deal is reached, next Thursday.
Hatch and Wyden, who have been negotiating a compromise deal with House Ways& Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis,.) for months, made the comments at a hearing on trade priorities where three Cabinet secretaries testified, including U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew.
Industry trade groups see the legislation as the linchpin to advancing the trade agenda and an important Asia-Pacific trade deal.
One of the more contentious issues complicating the talks on TPA is the insistence by some Democrats, led by Sen. Chuck Shumer (D., N.Y.) to include strong language in TPA that cracks down on countries the undervalue their currencies, known as “currency manipulation.”
Lew said China has made progress in addressing its undervalued currency and told the committee that he does not think strong enforcement language regarding currency manipulation would “be appropriate” in the TPA bill.
Lew said the U.S. has made significant progress with China through multilateral forums and bilateral talks and warned that he is concerned that other approaches, such as a TPA bill, would “undermine” that progress.