National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson this week said the NFU is opposed to language introduced by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., that would authorize the Trade Promotion Authority, allowing trade agreements to move through Congress without amendments.
"We oppose fast-track negotiating authority for the president," Johnson confirmed in a released statement. He said previous trade deals have let farmers, consumers and workers down, and the trend shouldn't continue.
"Trade agreements must be a fair deal for all parties – farmers, workers, and consumers, both in the United States and abroad. Previous trade deals haven’t lived up to this standard, so Congress should have full opportunity to review and amend provisions of a trade agreement, consistent with the U.S. Constitution," Johnson said.
The TPA grants the president the authority to negotiate all terms of trade deals and would pave the way for a fast conclusion and approval of pending trade deals, like the Trans Pacific Partnership.
According to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the TPA requires the Executive Branch to seek input from Congress before, during and after negotiations. It also allows Congress to specify negotiating objectives that the Executive Branch must pursue.
Johnson, however, said this policy does not provide substantial Congressional oversight – and there are several matters that require special consideration by Congress in the realm of trade.
"It is imperative for our negotiators to focus on the huge U.S. trade deficit," Johnson suggested, noting that increasing exports while increasing imports at even faster rates is a "recipe for continued and even larger trade deficits."
Johnson said currency manipulation must also be dealt with, or any minor advantages gained in other parts of the agreements can be "easily and rapidly outweighed" by manipulated currency values.
"In order to ensure these important matters are considered, Congress must have a real say in the process," Johnson continued.
Several other groups, however, are in support of the TPA legislation, including The American Farm Bureau Federation, National Corn Growers Association, International Dairy Foods Association, U.S. Meat Export Federation, National Association of Wheat Growers, U.S. Wheat Associates and the National Pork Producers Federation, among many others.
The supporting groups say TPA would provide participating countries more assurance that Congress could not use several amendments to alter trade agreements. Further, the TPA would speed negotiations and completion of the long-awaited Trans Pacific Partnership, which many of them support.