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January 19, 2015

Congress, White House Hope To Debate Trade Promotion Authority In February Or March

President Barack Obama is expected to make expanding trade opportunities a key component of his State of the Union address tomorrow night and, according to World Trade Online, Republicans on Capitol Hill are also planning to focus on the issue in the coming weeks. The website reports GOP Senate leaders are planning to introduce a bill to renew Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), or fast-track, in early February and hope to start debate on that legislation in Congress by the end of March. 

Indeed, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell told Politico, “[T]he president wants Trade Promotion Authority. I think that's something most of my members think is a good idea. Without TPA of course there would be no trade agreements. And so we think trade agreements are good for America, create jobs and opportunity for our people.” While World Trade Online calls the Senate’s timeline “ambitious,” it also reports the White House has assembled a team of top executive branch officials who will be tasked with convincing lawmakers to vote for the bill. 

Expanding free trade, and TPA passage, is an issue on which President Barack Obama and the House and Senate Republican leadership agree, but to make TPA a reality it is likely the White House will have to convince at least some members of the president’s own party to temper their opposition to it. That’s because, according to Inside Trade, a group of conservative lawmakers will also likely oppose Trade Promotion Authority – a move that would mean Republican leaders need Democratic votes in order to have enough support to pass TPA. (The conservative lawmakers will oppose the bill on constitutional, not anti-free trade grounds.) MSCI is open to TPA passage, but will argue that lawmakers must debate how to best address currency manipulation as part of the TPA floor deliberations.