Under the Constitution (Article 1 Section 8) Congress has the power to regulate commerce with other nations and thus Congress must grant to the President the authority it holds. The last grant of trade promotion authority to the President expired in 2007.
Last month, Senators Max Baucus and Orrin Hatch, respectively the chairman and ranking minority member of Senate Finance, introduced the “Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014.” Similar legislation was introduced in the House by Dave Camp, the chairman of Ways and Means.
The Baucus-Hatch-Camp legislation renews the President’s right to enter into trade agreements before July 1, 2018. The bill provides for an extension of that authority to July 1, 2021 if the President requests such an extension and if neither house of Congress adopts a resolution of disapproval. Thus, the next President will be able to enjoy trade promotion authority, potentially through his or her first term.
Passing trade promotion authority is going to be a heavy lift politically, especially since Majority Leader Harry Reid has announced his opposition.
The Baucus-Hatch-Camp initiative may be the only pro-growth legislation of consequence to emerge this year. In this letter to members of Congress, written almost a year ago, ABC’s chairman and president make the case for trade negotiating authority and, more generally, the importance of trade for our economy. The letter seems as relevant today as when it was sent.