(May 10) The next big thing is TPA.

The Senate debate over trade promotion authority is expected to heat up in the wake of the passage of the farm bill compromise on May 8, with most expecting passage after compromises on labor issues are reached.

Trade promotion authority, formerly known as “fast track,” would give the president authority to negotiate trade deals with foreign governments and then present the deals to Congress on an up or down vote. Congress could not amend trade deals under the arrangement.

The authority expired in 1994, and President Bush has been pushing for the TPA so his administration can negotiate bilateral and multilateral trade deals.

Some Senate Democrats were working to defeat the bill, but Republicans quoted in a Reuters report said as many as 70 senators could vote for TPA if the right compromises on labor issues are struck.

KEY TO WTO SUCCESS

Kraig Naasz, outgoing president of the Vienna, Va.-based U.S. Apple Association, said TPA is essential to the success of ongoing World Trade Organization talks.

“The WTO talks would go forward in any event, but it would disadvantage, if not undermine, the U.S. negotiating team’s leverage or ability to assume leadership,” he said.

And he said there would not likely be a final WTO deal without TPA.

“It would be next to impossible that the U.S. negotiating team will arrive at the type of bargain it wants if the folks on the other side aren’t assured the agreement won’t be rewritten by Congress,” Naasz said.

SOUTH AMERICAN TRADE

In addition to trade promotion authority, the Senate also was the Andean Trade Preference Expansion Act the week of May 5. President Bush has said he supports renewing the act, and the House has already approved the legislation. However, U.S. asparagus growers say an extension of the Andean deal could shut down their operations.

Mike Stuart, president of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, Orlando, said his association remains opposed to TPA and the Andean trade deal.

He said the trade agreements that will be negotiated as a result of the TPA — largely regional trade agreements — offer little promise and plenty of competition to Florida’s exporters.

“Our potential for export growth with those deals is small if not nil, and we will suffer erosion of the domestic market,” he said.

Stuart said the U.S. horticultural industry is seeing its domestic markets erode with no comparable increase in export markets.

While there is greater opportunity with the WTO talks to make trade gains, Stuart said preferential treatment for developing countries would make it difficult to win meaningful market access.

Naasz said the WTO preferential treatment of developing countries will be acceptable as long as the U.S. maintains its trade remedy laws.