For more than 30 years, Congress has enacted Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) laws to guide both Democratic and Republican Administrations in pursuing trade agreements.

What is TPA?
TPA is a legislative procedure written by Congress. It defines U.S. negotiating objectives and outlines a detailed oversight and consultation process used during trade negotiations. TPA does not provide new power to the executive branch, rather requirements for the president to follow. Under TPA, Congress retains the authority to review and decide whether any proposed U.S. trade agreement will be implemented.

TPA and Agriculture
Once a trade agreement has been reached, Congress will give an up-or-down vote, without any further amendments. It would essentially streamline passage of global agreements. TPA reaffirms Congress’s overall constitutional role in the development and oversight of U.S. trade policy.

A key element of TPA establishes requirements for the administration to notify and consult with Congress, with the private sector, other stakeholders and with the public during the negotiations of trade agreements.

The Republican Congress is likely to grant President Obama the “fast track” procedure known as TPA, allowing him to submit trade agreements for an up-or-down vote in Congress, former Agriculture Secretary and U.S. Senator Mike Johanns recently stated.

Improving overseas market access for agriculture will be essential to getting any agreement through Congress, he said.

“If agriculture isn’t enthusiastically behind any trade agreement, the chances of it getting done become much smaller,” Johanns added. “You can’t battle agriculture and expect to get a trade agreement approved in the House or Senate.”

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack enthusiastically touched on trade at the 2015 Commodity Classic to a national crowd of wheat, soybean, corn and sorghum growers.

“If we are going to get Trans-Pacific Partnership or any other trade agreement, we have to have TPA,” Vilsack said. “I am asking that you get engaged with your congressmen to get these trade agreements through.”

TWPA and NAWG are actively pushing for TPA passage, but individual support is needed. Find your representative and their contact information here, as well as talking points to address this important topic.

Once the TPA has been authorized, the White House can close current trade agreements including the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership. For America to get the best possible deal in trade negotiations, passing TPA is the essential first step.