In one of his first responsibilities as the acting U.S. Trade Representative, Demetrios Marantis testified before the Senate Finance Committee March 19 voicing support for working on reinstituting Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) and on the President's trade agenda.
Marantis assumed the post from Ambassador Ron Kirk March 15 who is departing after four years in the Obama Administration. Marantis, who previously served as a staffer at the Senate Finance Committee, has been at USTR since 2009 and responsible for U.S. trade negotiations and enforcement in Asia and Africa, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and congressional passage of the U.S.-Korea trade agreement which celebrated its one-year anniversary March 15.
In his opening statement, Marantis said USTR in support of market-opening efforts, the agency looks "forward to beginning work with you on Trade Promotion Authority." TPA is the authority Congress grants to the President to enter into certain reciprocal trade agreements, and to have their implementing bills considered under expedited legislative procedures, provided the President observes certain statutory obligations.
TPP expired in 2007 and has stalled new trade agreements sought by the United States. Sen. Chuck Grassley, (R., Iowa), a senior member of the committee, said the statement from Marantis "is the most definitive statement" he's heard from the Administration on the need to renew TPA.
"The Senate majority should heed the call and move to reinstate Trade Promotion Authority as soon as possible," Grassley said.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) said in testimony "TPA could have been done a long time ago" and he criticized Kirk for not taking steps to engage Congress on reinstating TPA despite Kirk testifying before the committee saying he would.
Committee chairman Sen. Max Baucus (D., Mont.) said given the ambitious trade agenda including the TPP and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership in Europe the need for TPA is clear.
"TPA is a key negotiating tool and will help bring these trade agreements to a successful conclusion," he said, adding that it's been more than a decade since the last TPA was renewed. Since then exports have more than doubled, which means a new TPA should reflect new realities that come with economic priorities and challenges.
"I’m pleased that the Administration has indicated its interest in working with Congress to get TPA done. Working together, we will pass this important trade legislation," Baucus said.