The executive branch has always maintained the authority to negotiate trade agreements. TPA merely sets in place a process to negotiate potential trade deals, while maintaining the constitutional authority of Congress to finalize any such agreement or treaty. Again, TPA is not a trade agreement; it is a trade-negotiation process, nothing more and nothing less. Rather than reducing congressional input into future trade deals, TPA enhances congressional involvement and oversight during negotiations while requiring additional transparency for the public by mandating that any potential agreement must be publicly available for 60 days before Congress can act. In other words, everyone will have a chance to read it before they “vote” on it.
Without a doubt, the economic stakes are high. Some 38 million U.S. jobs — more than one in five — are dependent on trade. Currently, the United States is negotiating trade deals with eleven Asian-Pacific economies in the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the 28 member nations represented in the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership — roughly 40 percent of the global economy. Together, these trade deals could increase market access for U.S. businesses and manufactures to nearly 1 billion consumers.
There is a price to be paid for failing to pass TPA. Right now, China is working to expand its economic influence around the world. Unless Congress passes TPA while still protecting its constitutional role in the process, it is almost certain that no trade agreements will be finalized. Thus China will write the trade rules for the 21st century — and these rules will undoubtedly run counter to U.S. interests.