Trade Bill Clears Senate Hurdle

By Jerry Hagstrom
DTN Political Correspondent

WASHINGTON (DTN) — The Senate voted 62-38 Thursday to invoke cloture and begin debate on the bill to grant President Barack Obama trade promotion authority and reauthorize trade adjustment assistance, but completion of the measure could take until Friday.

The motion that passed will allow consideration of an amendment sponsored by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., to extend the charter of the Export-Import Bank, Washington Trade Daily reported, but there are other amendments also under consideration.

The motion allows 30 hours of debate, but after the vote Thursday, senators gathered in small groups on and off the Senate floor in what appeared to be an attempt to come to agreements to limit the number of amendments and speed up the process.

Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said the vote "shows that the U.S. Senate is ready to turn the page on the trade policy of the 1990s and NAFTA-style trade agreements."

"Our legislation ensures new transparency for all trade deals, opens the door to expanding U.S. exports and American jobs, and makes sure that our trade partners don’t give short shrift to crucial issues like the environment, labor and human rights," Wyden said. "I’m working to ensure the Senate votes on as many amendments as possible and passes this bill into law."

The National Pork Producers Council, the National Corn Growers Association and Western Growers issued statements late Wednesday calling for passage of a clean TPA bill.

"The U.S. pork industry is dependent on exports, which are facilitated through free trade agreements," said NPPC President Ron Prestage, a veterinarian and pork producer from Camden, South Carolina. "And those agreements are made possible by TPA. The Senate needs to pass that bill now, but adding controversial provisions will make it harder to do that."

"The Senate needs to pass a clean TPA bill as soon as possible and keep this critically important legislation moving forward," said National Corn Growers Association President Chip Bowling.

"The livelihoods of America’s farmers and ranchers are dependent on trade," Bowling said. "We need greater access to foreign open markets and a chance to compete globally."

"Right now, the United States is negotiating major trade agreements in the Pacific Rim and the European Union. But the fact is, we have never passed a major trade agreement without trade promotion authority. Those agreements will move on with or without us," Bowling added.

"The produce industry is looking to members of both parties to pass TPA legislation," said Western Growers CEO and President Tom Nassif. "Inclusion of amendments would jeopardize passage and actually hinder the efforts of U.S. negotiators."

(AG/CZ)