May 17, 2015

U.S. Senate TPA Debate Moves Forward, But Votes Still Not There In U.S. House

After a short delay last Tuesday when Democratic senators voted against a procedural motion to begin debate, floor consideration of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) moved forward in the U.S. Senate last week. (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was the force behind the delay; he agreed to let the bill proceed after Republican leaders allowed TPA to be considered with three other trade-related bills.) 

While efforts to address currency manipulation by foreign countries continued to be a sticking point in the debate, as part of the deal with Sen. Reid, senators considered and passed a customs bill that included a provision allowing the U.S. Commerce Department to impose duties on goods from countries that undervalue their currency. (Click here to see how your senator voted on this bill.) While MSCI believes that measure is a step in the right direction, the White House is likely to veto it. MSCI also believes the measure would not be enough even if the president signed it; stronger efforts are needed. 

As such, MSCI will continue to support efforts to add a provision to TPA that provides for strong, enforceable currency rules in future trade agreements. According to Politico’s “Morning Trade,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) intends to push for those rules. Sen. Portman told Politico his amendment wouldn’t affect Trans-Pacific Partnership countries “because none of them are violating the provisions of the IMF, the International Monetary Fund, which is what we use for our definition of currency manipulation.” 

Meanwhile, in the U.S. House, leaders oppose any efforts to address currency issues, which may be one reason they reportedly do not yet have the votes to pass TPA. According to Politico Pro (subscription required) only 17 or 18 Democrats have said they’ll support the bill and the GOP appears to have only 180 votes in favor. (Approximately 60 Republicans are expected to definitely vote against the measure.) Republicans still have a few weeks to find the 218 votes needed to pass TPA since the House is not expected to begin debate on TPA until June.