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TPA Legislation Introduced, Farm Bill Delayed

On Jan. 9, key members of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee unveiled the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014. The legislation proposes to extend presidential Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) for four years, with an option to extend for an additional three years.

Free trade agreements are still subject to Congressional approval under TPA, but on an up-or-down vote without amendments. TPA is a critical tool for U.S. negotiators, because it assures trading partners that an agreement will not be altered during the Congressional approval process.

Considerable opposition to TPA has surfaced in recent weeks from some members of Congress. To address these members’ concerns, the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act establishes strict requirements for Congressional consultations and access to information. More details on the legislation are included in news releases from the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee. The Finance Committee release includes the full text of the Senate bill and a one-page summary.

Statements supporting the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act were issued Thursday by the White House and USTR. USMEF also released the following statement in support of the legislation:

U.S. Meat Export Federation Statement in Support of the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act

No action taken on farm bill; schedule unclear

The week began with high hopes for a meeting of the farm bill conference committee and possible release of a conference report. Neither happened, however, as action on the farm bill became entangled in a number of issues, ranging from a possible link to the extension of long-term unemployment benefits to a disagreement over dairy supply management provisions currently included in the Senate version of the bill.

No formal schedule has been announced for further action on the farm bill, and news reports suggest that the conference committee my not meet until late January. USMEF will provide further updates as more information becomes available.