We at Foreign Affairs have recently published a number of articles examining trade promotion authority (TPA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Those articles sparked a heated debate, so we decided to ask a broad pool of experts to state whether they agree or disagree with the following statement and to rate their confidence level about that answer.

Congress should grant U.S. President Barack Obama trade promotion authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.







Full Responses:

EDWARD ALDEN is the Bernard L. Schwartz senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Strongly Agree, Confidence Level 9 I agree with many of the substantive criticisms of the TPP as it currently stands, but none of them is an argument for the United States to turn its back on the deal. The negotiating process should be more transparent, the agreement should include provisions to curb government intervention in currency markets, and the investor–state dispute resolution procedures should be reformed. Representative Sander Levin, the ranking Democrat on the House Ways & Means Committee, has produced a sensible list of improvements to the pending deal. But there is no question that concluding TPP is in the U.S. national interest. It will strengthen U.S. ties to Asia, boost U.S. exports, and encourage economic reform in China by setting high trade and governance standards for much of the region.

C. FRED BERGSTEN is Senior Fellow and Director Emeritus at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Strongly Agree, Confidence Level 10 TPA is essential to permit satisfactory conclusion and subsequent Congressional approval of TPP and (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which represent the most ambitious U.S. trade negotiating agenda ever and will transform the global economic system.

RICHARD N. COOPER is Maurits C. Boas Professor of International Economics at Harvard University.

Strongly Agree, Confidence Level 10 Congress should give the president TPA for other trade negotiations as well, not just the TPP. And my view does not imply support for TPP, the content of which we do not yet know. That would be a different question.

CHRISTINA DAVIS is Professor in the Department of Politics and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

Strongly Agree, Confidence Level 10

DANIEL W. DREZNER is Professor of International Politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Strongly Agree, Confidence Level 10

KIMBERLY ANN ELLIOTT is Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development.

Agree, Confidence Level 6 The provisions in trade agreements increasingly reach beyond borders, and the ambition of negotiators is to do even more of that. When fast-track procedures were developed, nontariff measures were becoming important, but they were still mainly border measures. As trade agreements seek to reach further beyond the border and address domestic regulations that have some effect on trade, the appropriate role for fast-track procedures and what is covered by them needs rethinking.

JEFF FAUX is the principal founder of the Economic Policy Institute and was its first president, from 1986 to 2002.

Strongly Disagree, Confidence Level 10 TPP is special-interest foreign policy. The 20-year history of this type of trade deal tells us that benefits will go to those who invest overseas and the costs will be paid by U.S. workers in lost incomes and opportunities, intensifying inequality. A worsening trade balance will require still more U.S. borrowing. That's much too high a price to pay for an ill-advised effort to check China's influence in Asia.

EVAN A. FEIGENBAUM is Vice Chairman of the Paulson Institute, located at the University of Chicago.

Strongly Agree, Confidence Level 10

JEFFREY FRANKEL is the James W. Harpel Professor of Capital Formation and Growth at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

Strongly Agree, Confidence Level 9 Every U.S. president for the last 40 years has been given TPA or fast-track authority except President Barack Obama. There is a good reason for that. Other countries had learned previously not to negotiate with the United States if Congress could take away concessions that the executive had offered as part of a deal.

MICHAEL B. FROMAN is the U.S. Trade Representative.

Strongly Agree, Confidence Level 10 Trade promotion legislation is how Congress has worked with U.S. presidents from both parties going back to FDR, including every president for the last four decades. It’s how to protect the national interest from narrow special interests and advance high-standard trade agreements like TPP that support more good jobs, spur growth, and strengthen America’s middle class. As U.S. President Barack Obama has made clear, if we don’t write the rules for the world’s fastest-growing region, China and others will. America’s choice is as simple as it is consequential: lead on trade, or be left behind.

JOSEPH E. GAGNON is Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Strongly Disagree, Confidence Level 10 TPA without strong provisions against currency manipulation is a bad idea.

BERNARD K. GORDON is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of New Hampshire.

Strongly Agree, Confidence Level 10 Very recent developments (past week!) make me far less confident than earlier as to whether Congress will approve TPP. The opponents have finally seized on an issue that can upend the whole process. The issue revolves around ISDS, or investor-state dispute settlement. There’s too much to say about it here, but the issue has legs, because it implies that TPP would have a negative impact on U.S. sovereignty. It’s a false argument, but perceptions are in this case as so often, more important than reality.

CARLA A. HILLS is Co-Chair of the Council on Foreign Relations and Chair and CEO of Hills & Company. From 1989 to 1993, she served as U.S. Trade Representative.

Strongly Agree, Confidence Level 10 The TPP that is being negotiated with 11 other nations will stimulate the U.S. economy, advance its development goals, and enhance its leadership in Asia. It could be a first step to an agreement involving all 21 Asia-Pacific economies. We need Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) to achieve a strong TPP. Under the U.S. constitution, the president has the power to negotiate with foreign governments, and Congress the power to impose tariffs. TPA creates a collaborative mechanism that Congress has successfully used for 80 years to achieve strong trade agreements. Under TPA, Congress may set objectives and ask for updates. In return, it agrees to approve or reject, but not amend, the agreement the administration presents. U.S. trade negotiators cannot achieve the best trade deals if the country’s trade partners expect that there will be another negotiation with Congress. Also, a trade negotiation requires striking a balance on a broad range of issues. An amendment can upset that balance causing the agreement to unravel. If members of Congress do not like TPP, they can vote against it. But it is irresponsible to impair negotiations of an agreement that could significantly advance U.S. national interests.

GARY CLYDE HUFBAUER is Reginald Jones Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Strongly Agree, Confidence Level 10 TPA and TPP are gateways to deeper economic ties with Europe through TTIP; to accords with China, Indonesia, and other Asian countries through the eventual expansion of TPP; and to new global accords through the WTO. If TPA and TPP fail, it will spell the end of an era for U.S. economic engagement with the world.

ROBERT KAHN is Steven A. Tananbaum Senior Fellow for International Economics at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Agree, Confidence Level 9 Although the benefits of TPP are hard to quantify with confidence, there is a deal to be had that opens markets, creates better trade rules, and strengthens U.S. leadership overseas. Further, to fail at this stage could trigger a protectionist backlash. Without TPA, or with its authority significantly restricted (for example, by currency manipulation sanctions), it is hard to imagine that a deal on TPP (and TTIP) can be reached.

RICHARD KATZ is Editor of The Oriental Economist Report.

Strongly Agree, Confidence Level 10 TPA is indispensable to concluding the TPP and TTIP. But the content of the TPA does need serious dialogue among the White House, Congressional Republicans, and Congressional Democrats.

ANNE O. KRUEGER is Senior Research Professor of International Economics at the School for Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University.

Strongly Agree, Confidence Level 5 No meaningful negotiations can proceed without TPA, and it is a desirable agreement. Congress can still vote it up or down.

SEBASTIAN MALLABY is Paul A. Volcker senior fellow for international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Strongly Agree, Confidence Level 10 Trade liberalization is a clear positive for economic growth. It is not a clear positive for income distribution, but distributional concerns should be addressed through progressive tax and spending policies, not by obstructing trade. Equally, labor and environmental issues are best addressed without impeding trade openness.

HAROLD MEYERSON Harold Meyerson is Editor-at-Large at The American Prospect and a columnist for The Washington Post.

Strongly Disagree, Confidence Level 10 Trade accords, TPP included, have always included deregulatory agendas that go well beyond issues of trade. That’s not what the United States needs more of. Perhaps an agreement between the United States and Europe, currently under negotiation and nowhere near completion, could actually raise U.S. labor standards to the more humane levels of the European Union—but that would require a lot of pressure from worker advocates.

HELEN V. MILNER is B. C. Forbes Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University and Director of the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School.

Agree, Confidence Level 9

ELY RATNER is Senior Fellow and Deputy Director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security.

Strongly Agree, Confidence Level 10 Not every trade agreement puts America’s prestige, influence, and leadership on the line, but the TPP does. Congress failing to grant the president TPA, and in so doing undermining TPP, would be a strategic mistake of historic proportions.

JEFFREY J. SCHOTT is a Senior Fellow working on international trade policy and economic sanctions at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Strongly Agree, Confidence Level 10 TPA will cover all major U.S. trade initiatives not just TPP. Its passage is important to facilitate the prompt ratification of the TPP after the deal is signed and implementing legislation is drafted by members of Congress and the administration.

SUSAN C. SCHWAB served as United States Trade Representative from June 2006 to January 2009.

Strongly Agree, Confidence Level 10 TPA sets out the rules by which Congress has decided it will consider trade agreements when they are submitted for approval. TPA, which also lays out substantive negotiating objectives and procedural parameters (such as consultations with committees and constituencies, information sharing, etc.) for executive branch negotiators, has generally been sought by the president and granted by Congress well in advance of the conclusion of trade agreements. In return, U.S. negotiators (and the country’s trading partners) know that any final deal will get an up or down vote in Congress and not be stalled by filibuster or taken apart by amendment. Ultimately, members of Congress use TPA to create the parameters most likely to result in trade agreements with the best possible results for U.S. interests (be they economic, geopolitical, or both), and then can vote for or against the final agreement on the merits. All presidents since 1974 have enjoyed some form of TPA. In contrast to the question posed, however, when the Congress next grants TPA, it needs to be broader than just for a TPP agreement; it needs to be available for other potential trade deals, such as an agreement with the European Union, and/or plurilateral deals involving trade in services, environmental goods, etc. Getting TPA is always a heavy lift, but has been complicated in this case by how long the administration waited to seek it relative to its near-term desire to close TPP. Regardless, any TPP agreement will be held to the new TPA standards, and the sooner the president and Congress come together to deliver TPA, the better.

SHEILA A. SMITH is Senior Fellow for Japan Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Strongly Agree, Confidence Level 10 The new trade arrangements with the Asia–Pacific are vital to U.S. interests, and the United States must be willing and able to lead the effort to bring greater standards to bear in organizing its economic relationships in Asia. If the United States fails to take this opportunity, others will step in to claim the mantle of leadership of economic life in the Asia–Pacific, and it will be forced to follow the rules that others lay down. U.S. partners in the region are counting on Washington to be able to sustain its interest and investment in the future of Asia.

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