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TPA On Its Way to Obama

The Senate passed Trade Promotion Authority, also known as fast track legislation, Wednesday by a vote of 60-38, sending the bill to President Barack Obama for his expected signature. The bipartisan bill that still was opposed by most Democrats will allow the Obama administration to wrap up negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations that include one of America’s best agricultural export markets, Japan, as well as growing economies in Malaysia and Vietnam

TPA means that the Pacific agreement and any others completed in the next six years would face up or down votes in Congress, without the chance to amend them. 

The revised TPA bill passed Wednesday did not include a job-training provision for U.S. workers displaced by trade agreements, which is strongly supported by Democrats, but Republican leaders in Congress have promised speedy passage of a separate bill for so-called Trade Adjustment Assistance. 

Farm groups hailed today’s vote as a significant win for U.S. producers.

“Today is a huge victory for America’s corn farmers and the entire agricultural industry,” said Chip Bowling, a Maryland farmer and president of the National Corn Growers Association. “Ag exports are a major driver of the U.S. economy, supporting more than 1 million jobs. With greater market access, American farmers and ranchers can do even more. Thank you to both the Senate and the House of Representatives for passing Trade Promotion Authority. We look forward to a quick signature by the president.”

Western Growers, which represents produce farmers in Arizona, California, and Colorado, sees TPA as a crucial step in completing the Pacific trade deal.

“While the produce sector experiences an overall trade deficit, $15 billion in U.S. exports of fresh produce commodities compared to nearly $19 billion in imports, the expansion of foreign markets is critical to opening and expanding markets for the fresh produce industry,” the group said in a statement. “TPA will allow our U.S. negotiators to get the best deal possible with our trading partners. In the near-term, passage of TPA paves the way for the completion of Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations and what we anticipate to be significant market-opening opportunities across the Pacific Rim.”   

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