In a speech on the Senate floor Tuesday, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) called on the Obama Administration to ensure any agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) meets the bipartisan objectives of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) as laid out by Congress.
The speech came as another round of talks between TPP trade ministers is taking place in Atlanta this week.
“No one – at least no one from our side of the negotiations – should be in a hurry to close talks if it means getting a less-than-optimal result for our country. I think our negotiators understand these concerns. My hope is that, as they move through the latest round of talks in Atlanta this week, they consider what it will take to get a deal through Congress.” Hatch said. “If you look at the bipartisan coalition that supported our TPA bill, you should get a pretty good sense of the balance it will take to get enough support here in the Senate and over in the House.”
Hatch went on to reserve support for the deal until it is fully examined:
“If the administration and our negotiating partners do conclude an agreement this week, they can be sure that I will examine it very carefully to ensure it meets these standards. And, as I have stated many times before, if the agreement falls short, I will not support it.”
The complete speech, as prepared for delivery, is below:
Mr. President, I rise today to say a few words about the latest developments in international trade.
As most of my colleagues know, this week, officials from the Obama Administration are meeting in Atlanta with representatives from our negotiating partners in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. Many reports indicate that our trade negotiators are hoping to conclude talks and finalize a deal over the next few days.
Now, as you know, Mr. President, I was an original author of the legislation that renewed Trade Promotion Authority, or TPA, earlier this year. I fought extremely hard to renew TPA because I believe it is an absolutely essential tool to ensure we get the very best trade agreements possible.
And, for years, I’ve been one the most outspoken proponents in Congress for full engagement in the various trade agreements that have been under negotiation, including the TPP.
A strong TPP agreement could greatly enhance our nation’s ability to compete in an increasingly global marketplace and result in healthier economy and more high-paying jobs that come with increased U.S. trade. After all, when we’re talking about the 12 countries currently taking part in these negotiations, we’re talking about 40 percent of the global economy. As a group, TPP countries represent the largest market for our goods and services exports. Trade with these countries already supports an estimated four million U.S. jobs.
And, with a good trade agreement in place, I believe we can do even better.
The Asia-Pacific region, where this agreement is focused, is one of the most economically vibrant and fastest-growing areas of the world. According to the International Monetary Fund, the world economy will grow by more than $20 trillion over the next five years, and nearly half of that growth will be in Asia.
Unfortunately, our share of exports to the Asia-Pacific has been on the decline, as exports to the region lag behind overall U.S. export growth.
One reason U.S. companies have lost so much market share in this very important part of the world is that many countries in the region maintain steep barriers to U.S. exports while they’ve been negotiating to remove many of the same types of barriers for other countries, most notably for places like China and the European Union.
On average, Southeast Asian countries impose tariffs that are five times higher than the average U.S. tariff. In addition, their duties on U.S. agricultural products often reach triple digits. There are also numerous other barriers – such as regulatory restrictions – that impede access for U.S. exporters in many of these countries. These obstacles, and increased global competition, have made it increasingly difficult for U.S. companies to remain competitive in Asia.
Put simply, a strong TPP agreement is the best tool we could have to increase the growth of U.S. exports to the Asia-Pacific region.
There are also important strategic and security reasons to support a strong TPP agreement.
We’ve all seen in recent years how the economies of our TPP negotiating partners have been shaped by China’s expanding economic influence. I think we would all prefer that the U.S. remain the world leader on trade. If we want to maintain and expand our influence in the Asia-Pacific, it is essential that we more fully engage with the region. A strong TPP agreement will facilitate that engagement and help ensure that trade patterns develop under a U.S. model, operating under U.S rules and applying U.S. standards.
A strong TPP agreement can help us create high-paying jobs through increased exports as well as help secure our strategic and economic position in the Asia-Pacific region. But, to do all that, we need a strong agreement.
That is why I have been pushing the Obama Administration to negotiate wisely in order to reach a TPP agreement that advances our nation’s interests and provides significant benefits for American workers and job creators.
But, despite these obvious advantages to concluding a TPP agreement, I think it is critically important that the administration take the time necessary to get the agreement right. A number of key issues are outstanding, and how they are resolved will go a long way to determining whether I can support the final agreement.
Our country has a long history of negotiating and reaching high-standard trade agreements. While they haven’t all been perfect, our existing trade agreements have, in my view, advanced our interests in foreign markets and strengthened our economy.
There are a number of reasons why, historically, our trade negotiators have fought long and hard to get gold-standard agreements. The most obvious reason is that anything less is unlikely to pass through Congress.
If the administration is serious about, not only getting an agreement, but getting that agreement passed, they need to make sure they get our country the best deal possible. If that means continuing negotiations beyond Atlanta, so be it. Getting a good agreement will be worth the wait.
Over the years, I have laid out very clearly what I think a good trade agreement looks like. These ideas are embodied in the recently enacted TPA law.
If the administration and our negotiating partners do conclude an agreement this week, they can be sure that I will examine it very carefully to ensure it meets these standards. And, as I have stated many times before, if the agreement falls short, I will not support it. And, I don’t think I’ll be alone on that.
Mr. President, I’m as big a proponent of expanding U.S. trade as you’ll find in this chamber. And, in concept, I very much support the idea of a Trans-Pacific Partnership. While I worked very hard for a number of years to get a TPA bill through Congress, I have made it abundantly clear that I will not support just any deal, whether it is this or any other future administration that wants to sign it.
We need to get a good deal. Indeed, as I’ve said, we need to get the best deal possible.
No one – at least no one from our side of the negotiations – should be in a hurry to close talks if it means getting a less-than-optimal result for our country. Ultimately, I don’t believe anyone in the administration wants to reach an agreement that will not pass in Congress.
I think our negotiators understand these concerns. My hope is that, as they move through the latest round of talks in Atlanta this week, they consider what it will take to get a deal through Congress. If you look at the bipartisan coalition that supported our TPA bill, you should get a pretty good sense of the balance it will take to get enough support here in the Senate and over in the House.
Put simply, if TPP does not reflect that balance, it is hard to see how it will be successfully enacted into law.
As always, Mr. President, I am an optimist. I know we can get a good deal here, and, for my part, I’m willing to do all I can to help make sure that we do.
I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I’m going to be watching very closely to see what happens in Atlanta this week. All of us have an interest in the outcome of these negotiations. Hopefully, in the end, those of us who supported TPA and its promise of better trade terms for U.S. workers and expanded market access for American goods and services won’t be disappointed with the outcome.