WASHINGTON Dec 14 Three top U.S. lawmakers on
key congressional committees have reached a bipartisan deal on
legislation the White House needs to advance international trade
agreements and will introduce the measure early next month,
congressional aides said on Saturday.
The Trade Promotion Authority legislation, which would let
the White House put trade agreements before Congress for an up
or down vote without amendments, is considered crucial to
enacting trade deals and could pave the way for major accords
with Pacific Rim and European trading partners.
The agreement was reached among Max Baucus, a Democrat who
chairs the Senate Finance Committee which has jurisdiction over
trade, the committee's senior Republican, Orrin Hatch, and
Representative Dave Camp, the Republican chairman of the House
Ways and Means Committee, which is also oversees trade issues.
The agreement was first reported in the Wall Street Journal.
The measure has a provision directing negotiators to
consider currency issues as a negotiating objective, one aide
said. Details were not available.
Foreign exchange fairness is a critical issue for many U.S.
businesses, which argue that some countries suppress the value
of their currency against the U.S. dollar to give their products
an advantage over U.S. goods. China, with which the United
States had a $315 billion trade deficit in 2012, is a frequent
target of such complaints.
U.S. negotiators are in the endgame of a deal with countries
in Latin America and Asia known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership
and are also working on an accord with the European Union, the
Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
Trade deals usually lower the cost of goods into the United
States but also may cause job losses as manufacturers move
facilities abroad where labor is cheaper. Trade promotion
authority is considered essential to prevent such deals, which
are often laboriously negotiated over years, from getting bogged
down in Congress.
The ambitious U.S.-led Tran-Pacific Partnership would create
a free-trade bloc with 11 other countries including Vietnam,
Chile, New Zealand, Japan and Mexico, in an area that makes up
about 40 percent of the global economy.
The countries failed to reach a deal on the pact at a
conference in Singapore that ended on Tuesday, as divisions over
handling of intellectual property, agricultural tariffs and
state-owned enterprises were unresolved.
The third round of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment
Partnership negotiations involving the United States and the EU
is expected to take place in mid-December.