Lawmakers Eager to Get Secretive Trade Agreement Moving

Many copyright and Internet freedom activists have criticized a leaked chapter on intellectual property laws, saying elements of the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) have been slipped into the trade agreement.

With all the bad publicity surrounding the TPP, Reichert said getting Congress to support the deal will require “all hands on deck.” He said the administration would need to coordinate a pro-TPP push in all relevant departments, including the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Treasury, and the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office.

Both lawmakers noted many members of Congress have not voted for TPA before, so there is “a lack of understanding” about the authority.

“There's a lot of misinformation being circulated among members of Congress about what trade promotion authority really is. Some think it may be an abridgment of Congress's authority. There's some who think there are sovereignty issues, so there's a lot of various misinformation out there,” Boustany said.

“We have to embark on a very strong educational process to get this done,” he added.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has come out against giving the president fast-track authority.

Last month, 22 Republicans in the House of Representatives sent a letter to Obama saying they were “strong supporters of American trade expansion” but would not support handing over negotiating authority to the president on constitutional grounds.

In a separate letter, 151 Democrats led by Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and George Miller (D-Calif.) also wrote to the president to express their opposition to fast-track legislation.

Boustany noted the TPP is a much larger multilateral deal, which makes it proportionally more difficult to pass, even compared to the last two multilateral agreements signed by the country – CAFTA and NAFTA. He said the consultative process is critical to enlist the support of members of Congress and show them how their districts would benefit from the trade deal.

“We're going to devote a lot of our time and effort to building the consensus to make this happen,” Boustany said.

Reichert said the TPP caucus is planning to send a letter to the president asking for a meeting with the four chairs of the group.

“We're going to meet with the president,” Reichert said. “We want to tell him how important this is. We want to tell him how much support we have in Congress.”

On Tuesday, the U.S. and the other TPP members announced they would miss a self-imposed year-end deadline to finalize the agreement. In a joint statement by trade ministers attending four days of talks in Singapore, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said work on the agreement will resume in a few weeks.