President Signs CalChamber-Supported Trade Bills

U.S. President Barack Obama yesterday signed California Chamber of Commerce-supported legislation that renews the authority for the President and/or U.S. Trade Representative to negotiate trade agreements.

Obama signed the measure during a brief ceremony in the East Room of the White House, according to The Hill. Behind him during the signing were U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Reps. John Delaney (D-Md.), Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.

By approving trade promotion authority, Congress can help strategically address the range of U.S. trade negotiations being pursued:

  • the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) between the United States and Asia-Pacific region;
  • the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the United States and European Union; and
  • the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) to liberalize trade in services globally.

Future trade negotiations will be helped, as well.

The United States is among the world’s leading exporters due to increased market access achieved through trade agreements. Trade promotion authority is vital for the President of the United States to negotiate new multilateral, bilateral and sectoral agreements that will continue to tear down barriers to trade and investment, expand markets for U.S. farmers and businesses, and create higher-skilled, higher-paying jobs for U.S. workers.

President Obama shared the same sentiment during the signing ceremony when he said that TPA will,”… help us pass new, 21st century trade agreements with higher standards and tougher protections than those that we’ve signed before. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, for example, includes strong protections for workers and the environment. Unlike previous agreements, those provisions will actually be enforceable. And that’s good for American businesses and America workers because we already meet high standards than — higher standards than most of the rest of the world. So we want to make sure that everybody else catches up. This agreement will help us level the playing field.”

Impact on California

California, ranked as one of the nation’s top exporting states, currently has the seventh largest economy in the world, and a gross state product exceeding $2 trillion.

“Trade is an important engine for California’s economic growth and jobs,” said CalChamber President and CEO Allan Zaremberg said when the U.S. Senate passed TPA. “In fact, 4.7 million jobs in California are generated from our successful trade economy.”

Zaremberg continued, “The California business community particularly appreciates votes by members of our Congressional delegation in support of TPA. Those who supported this important measure understand that California will reap big rewards.”

Trade promotion authority is vital for the President of the United States to negotiate new multilateral, bilateral and sectoral agreements that will continue to tear down barriers to trade and investment, expand markets for farmers and businesses and create higher-skilled, higher-paying jobs in California and the nation.

Background

The U.S. Senate voted 60-38 to pass Trade Promotion Authority on June 24. California Senator Dianne Feinstein voted in support of the measure.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the TPA bill on June 18, 218-208, with the support of 16 members of the California congressional delegation. California congressional delegation members who voted in support of TPA on June 12 held firm in their support on June 18.

Among the “aye” votes were the following California representatives: Bera (D-Elk Grove), Calvert (R-Corona), Costa (D-Fresno), Davis (D-San Diego), Denham (R-Atwater), Farr (D-Carmel), Issa (R-Vista), Knight (R-Palmdale), LaMalfa (R-Richvale), McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), McClintock (R-Roseville), Nunes (R-Tulare), Peters (D-La Jolla), Royce (R-Fullerton), Valadao (R-Hanford), Walters (R-Irvine).

On June 12, the U.S. House of Representatives had narrowly approved, 219-211, the portion of the Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 that would renew TPA. A linked provision renewing Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), which was part of the U.S. Senate bill, failed to pass the House, preventing the entire package from being sent to the President to sign.

The Senate bill, TPA-15, garnered strong bipartisan support when it first passed the Senate on May 22, 62-37. Among those voting “aye” were 14 Democrats, including California U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, and most Republicans.

During the recent U.S. Conference of Mayors, 14 California mayors, led by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, sent a letter to leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives, urging passage of TPA-2015.

Every president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has been granted the authority to negotiate market-opening trade agreements in consultation with Congress.

For more information, see www.calchamber.com/tpa.

President Signs Additional Trade Legislation

In addition, President Obama also signed two other CalChamber-supported measures, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the Generalized Systems of Preferences (GSP) program.

For 15 years, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) has provided tangible economic benefits and opportunities to sub-Saharan Africa by helping African companies improve their competitiveness and invest in building a strong private sector. Also set to expire in September, today’s bill extends AGOA for 10 years and reflects our shared values by providing incentives to adopt good governance and pro-growth/pro-development policies, including on workers’ rights and human rights. The bill also gives the Administration the ability to withdraw, suspend, or limit benefits if designated AGOA countries do not comply with our eligibility criteria.

Though it has a wonky name, the Generalized Systems of Preferences program (GSP) is the oldest trade preferences program in U.S. history. Instituted in 1974, GSP is designed to promote economic growth in the developing world by providing preferential duty-free entry into the U.S. market for nearly 5,000 products form 122 designated beneficiary countries and territories. In 2012, the year before the program expired, the U.S. imported $20 billion worth of products, helping developing countries to increase and diversify their trade with the U.S. and grow their economies. U.S. businesses have also paid a high price after this program expired, over $1 billion in fact, on tariffs that previously entered the U.S. duty-free. Its renewal today will help some of the poorest countries in the world, U.S. businesses, and consumers alike.

Staff Contact: Susanne T. Stirling

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