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Organic Consumers Association

Obama: Give Me Fast Track Trade, Not Fair Trade

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The White House is making a major push to convince Congress to give the president trade promotion authority (TPA), which would make it easier for President Obama to negotiate pacts with other countries.

A flurry of meetings has taken place in recent days since legislation was introduced to give the president the authority, with U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman meeting with approximately 70 lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in the House and Senate.

White House chief of staff Denis McDonough has also been placing calls and meeting with top Democratic lawmakers in recent days to discuss trade and other issues.

Republicans have noticed a change in the administration's interest in the issue, which is expected to be a part of Obama's State of the Union address in one week.

While there was "a lack of engagement," as one senior Republican aide put it, there is now a new energy from the White House since the bill dropped. 

The effort to get Congress to grant Obama trade promotion authority comes as the White House seeks to complete trade deals with the European Union, and a group of Asian and Latin American countries as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP.

The authority would put time limits on congressional consideration of those deals and prevent the deals from being amended by Congress. That would give the administration more leverage with trading partners in its negotiations.

The trade push dovetails with the administration's efforts to raise the issue of income inequality ahead of the 2014 midterm elections. The White House is pressing Republicans to raise the minimum wage and extend federal unemployment benefits.

The difference is, on the minimum wage hike and unemployment issue, Obama has willing partners in congressional Democrats and unions, who are more skeptical of free trade. Republicans are more the willing partner on backing trade promotion authority.

Legislation introduced last week to give Obama trade promotion authority was sponsored by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), as well as Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the ranking member on Finance.

No House Democrats are co-sponsoring the bill, however, and Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), the Ways and Means Committee ranking member, and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), the panel's former chairman, have both criticized it. They said the legislation doesn't give enough leverage and power to Congress during trade negotiations.        


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