Senate approves Trade Promotion Authority

Senate approves Trade Promotion Authority

Major hurdle cleared as the measure now moves to the House. Ag groups react.

The fight over Trade Promotion Authority is over, at least in the Senate. Late Friday, the Senate overcame amendments and a close vote to avoid a filibuster to clear the hurdle that will allow President Obama to proceed with Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. According to wire reports, the House will take up the measure with Rep. John Boehner, R- Ohio, calling the measure a "no-brainer."

The Senate approved TPA on a 62-37 vote.

Senate finished one last task before a Memorial Day break - they pass Trade Promotion Authority. The measure heads to the U.S. House next.

As for agriculture the late-night news was welcome indeed. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, comments that the "Senate helped move America closer to securing responsible agreements that open markets for America's farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses and create jobs and improve wages across the country."

He notes that more than 70 organizations representing farmers and ranchers, and past secretaries of agriculture in both parties all support TPA "because exports are vital for U.S. Agriculture.

"Last year, agricultural exports totaled more than $150 billion and for many of our products, foreign markets represent half or more of total sales. Those exports supported approximately 1 million U.S. jobs last year, " Vilsack adds.

As for the need for trade negotiations, Vilsack notes that "standing still is not an option. Our farmers and ranchers face exorbitant tariffs and others barriers in important foreign markets, and if we do not act to maintain and gain market share in these places, our competitors will. U.S. agriculture's interests are best served by ensuring America is at the table with strong negotiating authority."

Bob Stallman, president, American Farm Bureau Federation, issued a statement on the measure noting the "Senate's bipartisan passage of trade promotion authority legislation today brings us a step closer to completing ambitious trade negotiations around the world. Congressional support is critical to breaking down trade barriers and completing ambitious new trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. TPA streamlines negotiations and strengthens our position at the bargaining table. We urge the House now to act swiftly in passing trade promotion authority to protect the future of agricultural trade."

The American Soybean Association welcomed the news. Wade Cowan, association president and a Texas farmer, shared the value of having TPA, noting that "for the past fifteen years, soybean farmers have been the leading ambassadors for American agriculture overseas, in large part due to the ability of USTR to craft agreements that maximize access for our products in markets around the world. Since 2007, however, our ability to maintain this role has been hampered by the absence of Trade Promotion Authority. In that time, despite valiant efforts by USTR, we haven’t been able to be as aggressive in crafting new agreements as our competitors in South America, which have caught up and, in some cases, eclipsed us."

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As for the National Corn Growers Association, in their statement in support of the Senate move, the group's president, Chip Bowling a Maryland farmer, adds that "America's farmers and ranchers are counting on the House of Representatives to step up and pass this important legislation as soon as possible."

On the livestock side, Philip Ellis, president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, and a Chugwater, Wyoming, cattleman, says:  “This vote by the Senate is a clear indication of the support that exists nationwide for future free trade agreements. The U.S. market is already one of the most open markets in the world, and to continue to grow demand for U.S. beef, we must continue to negotiate tariff elimination worldwide. I urge the House to follow the lead of the Senate and pass Trade Promotion Authority legislation.”

And two dairy groups - the National Milk Producers Federation and U.S. Dairy Council commended the Senate action: “Trade promotion authority is crucial to concluding trade agreements that will open foreign markets to more U.S. dairy products,” said NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern. “In the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations in particular, having TPA in place is essential to increase pressure on Japan and Canada to extend their best offers.”

USDEC President Tom Suber adds, “Knowing that a trade agreement will be considered by Congress under Trade Promotion Authority paves the way to press our negotiating partners to make their best offers on the most sensitive issues. Clearly, dairy exports fall into that category, and the U.S. needs all the tools it can muster to get the best possible deal.”

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