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January 25, 2015

Washington Lawmakers Agree Trade Policy Is A Priority, But Will They Consider Currency Legislation?

Even though members of his own party are opposed to the legislation, in his State of the Union address last Tuesday President Barack Obama called on Congress to approve Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), or “fast track” negotiating authority, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. 

According to several news sources, Republicans on Capitol Hill seem eager to comply. As Connecting the Dots reported previously, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is working to bring TPA to the Senate floor in the next several weeks and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is also supportive of the president’s trade agenda. 

While debate over TPA and various trade agreements moves forward, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) plans to introduce bipartisan legislation that will address currency manipulation by U.S. trading partners. Specifically, Sen. Stabenow said her bill will call for strong anti-currency manipulation provisions to be included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. (As Connecting the Dots has reported previously, the Obama administration has not addressed currency issues in its TPP negotiations, so the likelihood currency will be addressed in that agreement is remote if not impossible at this point.) Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) also called last week for provisions to address currency manipulation in TPP. 

Sen. Stabenow told Reuters, “We are talking about the right time to introduce a bill … Our message is that we should not agree to any trade agreement that does not have strong currency enforcement.” It’s unclear whether House or Senate leaders will allow deliberation on Sen. Stabenow’s bill, however. According to Reuters, U.S. House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman Pat Tiberi (R-OH) said “the possibility of a separate bill was still under discussion.”