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AFBF urges passage of trade promotion authority

6/7/2013 at 12:00 a.m.

WASHINGTON — The administration's ability to expand trade is critical to securing future economic opportunities for American agriculture, which is why farmers and ranchers are calling on Congress to pass trade promotion authority (TPA). TPA involves Congress in determining negotiating objectives for trade agreements and allows trade pact implementing legislation to be considered without amendment. 

Farm Bureau, along with a number of the country's leading business associations, recently launched the Trade Benefits America Coalition, an effort to educate congressional lawmakers and others about the benefits of U.S. trade agreements and to advocate for passage of TPA. 

Since President Franklin Roosevelt was in office in the 1930s, every U.S. president has had the authority from Congress to negotiate trade agreements that open new markets for American companies, farmers and many others and help ensure a rules-based system for two-way trade. Congress last enacted TPA in 2002, and it lapsed in 2007. 

While the United States can negotiate trade agreements with foreign trading partners, only with TPA can a trade agreement be approved, but not amended, by Congress. With TPA, countries negotiating with the United States have confidence that, while a deal might be rejected by Congress, at least it would not come back with changes from the lawmaking body.

"Growth for America's farmers and ranchers depends on our nation's ability to create economic opportunities, and supporting trade promotion authority will help secure greater access to world markets for our farm goods," said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. 

Without the credibility of TPA, U.S. negotiators are at a disadvantage at the bargaining table, and farmers and ranchers are the worse off for it, explained David Salmonsen, AFBF trade specialist. 

"Agriculture wants the U.S. to continue its work to open markets, expand economic development and support a strong rules-based trading system," Salmonsen said. "In order to be effective, TPA must be dedicated to expanding trade between nations. Without the ability to conclude bilateral, regional and multilateral trade agreements, the U.S. will be forfeiting potential markets and economic leadership to our competitors."

U.S. officials are working with negotiators from dozens of countries to craft the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact and another proposed free trade agreement with the European Union, making congressional passage of TPA that much more necessary, he noted.

SOURCE: American Farm Bureau Federation

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