I want to take this opportunity to explain why I support Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation, sometimes referred to as Fast Track, which will restore a key component of our trade policy to help our nation’s manufacturers and agricultural producers grow and create good paying jobs here at home.
To quote Edwin Messe, Attorney General under President Reagan, “It is extremely difficult for any U.S. President to negotiate significant trade deals if he cannot assure other nations that Congress will refrain from adding numerous amendments and conditions that must then be taken back to the negotiating table.”
A typical fast track agreement will set guidelines within which the president may negotiate the potential treaty. The president may not conclude an agreement that goes outside of the congressionally mandated guidelines. Once the treaty is concluded, both houses of Congress must then approve or reject the treaty through an expedited process that limits debate and procedural delaying tactics.
While the first modern Fast Track authority was granted in the Trade Act of 1974, the president and his diplomats have negotiated economic agreements since the earliest days of the republic. The first such treaty of note, commonly referred to as the Jay Treaty, was conducted by John Jay, one of the Founding Fathers, during his service to our nation as a special envoy to Great Britain for President George Washington. The Jay Treaty covered a variety of issues including issues of trade and commerce between the United States, Great Britain and British territories. Once the treaty had been concluded by Mr. Jay it was, submitted by President Washington to the United States Senate for that chamber’s advice and consent. This pattern of presidential conduction of trade treaties continues throughout our nation’s history. Because of this history, I am confident Congress has the constitutional authority to enact trade promotion authority.
Modern Fast Track authority is not a general grant of authority to the president and is in some ways more restrictive than the Congressional oversight of trade agreements exercised by Congress during our nation’s early history. This is because modern trade agreements typically reflect changes in the law beyond tariffs, such as certain regulations or other aspects of the law that can be classified as non-tariff barriers to trade. While I agree that we should eliminate regulations and roll back these barriers to trade so that future trade agreements can be conducted more easily, we cannot afford to pass up opportunities to achieve agreements on free trade right now.
Our economy needs the job creation which free trade offers for American workers and the lower prices it provides for American consumers.
Rep. Billy Long represents Missouri’s 7th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. The 7th District includes the southwest portion of The Marshfield Mail’s coverage area, including Rogersville, Fordland and Strafford.