With Congress “dangerously close” to ramming through trade promotion authority, or Fast Track, by mid-April—in turn smoothing the way for passage of corporate-friendly trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership—lawmakers and activists are scrambling to sway key figures in the debate.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reportedly said last week that he wants the Senate Finance Committee to approve a Fast Track bill “very quickly after we come back” from the Easter recess on April 13.
Committee chair Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who has been leading the effort to gather legislative support for Fast Track, suggested he was coming close to an agreement with the committee’s ranking member, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
Wyden is seen as a crucial player in Fast Track negotiations, with the New York Times suggesting in early March that the fate of President Barack Obama’s trade agenda “appears to rest on the narrow, somewhat wobbly shoulders of Mr. Wyden, a position acknowledged by both parties and the White House with some trepidation.”
Meanwhile, House Ways and Means Committee chair Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) pointed to two upcoming events—a visit to Washington, D.C., in late April by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and a ministerial meeting of the 12 Trans-Pacific Partnership countries in May—as reasons to push full steam ahead with Fast Track.
“We’ve got exterior deadlines that I think we need to be mindful of,” Ryan told reporters last week.
As Agri-Pulse reports:
Abe is scheduled to address a joint session of Congress, and it would be awkward for lawmakers if the TPA talks are stalled. Ryan brought up the Abe visit in discussing the TPA timeline with reporters, but he stopped short of promising to have a bill ready by then.