U.S. House members on Thursday attempted to put Trade Promotion Authority back on track with a narrow 218-208 vote following last week's no vote on Trade Adjustment Assistance that initially hobbled the legislation.
Because last week's TAA vote failed, the House's vote on stand-alone TPA legislation means the Senate must also approve a standalone TPA measure, despite its May approval of a TPA-TAA package.
TPA, also called "fast track," limits Congress to an up-or-down vote on trade deals. Supporters say this provides trading partners with certainty that specific elements of agreements won't be changed when moving through Congressional approval.
Many of those supporters consider TPA to be the first step to finalizing large trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership – a 12-country agreement currently close to finalization – and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
Many key farm groups say TPA and subsequent trade deals as a channel to larger markets for U.S. commodities and goods. The American Soybean Association said the House vote was encouraging.
"TPA would give [U.S. Trade Representative negotiators] the authority and the resources they need to represent most completely the needs of American farmers in global trade agreements," ASA President Wade Cowan said in a statement.
National Corn Growers Association President Chip Bowling offered similar comments. "Trade Promotion Authority is essential to negotiating the kinds of global trade agreements that will increase demand for American agricultural products," he said in a statement.
As noted by the slim vote margin, there is opposition. One farm group, the National Farmers Union, says TPA approval is a setback for American workers and farmers.
According to the group, the U.S. trade deficit is in part due to flawed trade agreements made possible by TPA.
"Our trade deficit is a net drag on our economy by a full 3%, which means lost jobs and lower wages for working Americans," NFU President Roger Johnson said. "NFU will continue to work for a trade policy that prioritizes domestic food production and goods supply chains instead of flawed policies that force family farmers and ranchers out of business."
The National Pork Producers Council said earlier this week it will score the results of the TPA vote and make that information public so "voters have this information when determining the candidate of their choice in the next election." NPPC is a supporter of the TPA.