WASHINGTON – It was seven years and four Congresses in the making. But Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which gives the President the power to negotiate international trade agreements, became law this morning with a flick of the Presidential pen.
The current legislation comes after more than a year of partisan wrangling. TPA finally passed the United States Senate by a 64 to 34 margin on Thursday. The U.S. House first passed the bill in November of 2001.
"Taxpayers and consumers won a major victory today, because TPA will amount to the biggest worldwide tax cut of the next decade," said taxpayer advocate Grover Norquist, who heads Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) in Washington. "Every day without TPA saw the loss of American productivity and jobs, and it\’s a shame the Senate and Tom Daschle took so long to grasp this opportunity."
The bill, formerly called "fast track," gives the President power to negotiate trade agreements with other nations, where Congress could approve or reject, but not amend, the treaties.
Every American President since 1974 has been granted trade promotion powers, but Congress let the measure lapse in 1994. This is especially noteworthy, considering that of 131 trade agreements worldwide, America is party to only three, with Israel, Jordan, and NAFTA partners Canada and Mexico.
International trade has long been a backbone of both America\’s economy and foreign policy. Recently, politics got in its way in the U.S. Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D) held the TPA legislation up for nearly six months after the House passed it last fall.
Increasing trade by lowering tariffs and subsidies worldwide provides new markets for American manufacturing and agricultural products. Indeed, the Washington Post editorialized last week: "Poor countries would get a better chance to export their way out of poverty. Rich countries\’ taxpayers would benefit, because they would finance fewer subsidies. Consumers the world over would pay less for goods that had previously been subject to tariffs."
Norquist continued:"Tariffs are taxes, and the globalization of the American economy demanded passage of TPA. With President Bush\’s signature, and the negotiations to begin a Free Trade Area of the Americas, the United States and our Latin American friends can now move on to real prosperity."