News / USA

US Trade Deals Face Uncertain Future in Congress

Jim Randle
Several major trade deals between Washington and its Asian and European partners face an uncertain future on Capitol Hill. While U.S. officials are busy working out agreements with other nations, Congress is haggling over what should be in those pacts and how they should be approved.  

Trade supporters hope to get Congress to agree on a set of goals for trade negotiations, and then step aside and let diplomats try to get a deal with other nations that reaches those goals.  

Under the special “Trade Promotion Authority” known as the "fast track" process for complex deals, Congress can vote yes or no but may not insert amendments into a final treaty.  

TPA support

That is just fine with Representative Charles Boustany, who supports trade deals.

“The last thing we want are 435 members of the House and 100 senators trying to negotiate separately a trade deal,” he said.

Key committee leaders in the House and Senate are said to have agreed on an outline of a Trade Promotion Authority, or TPA. They will introduce a bipartisan bill in both houses early in the new year, but the measure faces significant opposition.  

Washington is haggling with other countries over several trade deals, including the Trans Pacific Partnership with 11 Pacific nations. A second proposed deal is with the European Union, called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership .  

Senator Jeff Flake says trade deals could bring growth and jobs to the United States.

“Without the renewal of Trade Promotion Authority, it is difficult to foresee a credible scenario where we will be part of these trade agreements when they are concluded,” he said.

Supporters say cutting barriers to trade increases the flow of goods and services across borders, raises demand and creates jobs.

Previous deals cut tariffs on trade, but the new generation of agreements is intended to go further, resolving differences in regulations that make it harder to make or grow a product in one nation and sell it in another.

For example, U.S. poultry producers complain that changing European regulations have kept billions of dollars worth of their products out of European markets for 17 years. They hope a new deal will establish a uniform set of rules so they can sell more.

Critics speak out

Critics of these trade negotiations include some U.S. labor, environmental and consumer organizations. Lori Wallach speaks for the advocacy group Public Citizen and says those differing rules protect the health and safety of consumers, the financial system, people who use prescription drugs, and others.

She says changing health and safety rules is a job for open debate in Congress, not secretive negotiations on trade deals.

“[It is] a very undemocratic way of making decisions that will affect all of our lives,” said Wallach.

Wallach says American negotiators also should do more to stop U.S. trading partners from manipulating the value of their currencies to give their goods an unfair price advantage on world markets.

And she says the United States worked out trade deals through much of its history without “fast track,” and can make future deals in the same way - if they stand up to public scrutiny.

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs