President Bush signed legislation giving U.S. presidents trade promotion authority, which gives the president power to submit trade pacts to Congress for a quick yes-or-no vote. The bill was signed August 6, and effectively gives the president authority to strike major trade deals for the first time in nearly a decade.

“Fast-track” as the trade authority is known, expired in 1994, and Congress refused to grant President Clinton the power in 1997 and 1998.

Under TPA’s procedures, lawmakers cannot amend the agreements that the president has signed and must vote on an accelerated schedule. This arrangement greatly strengthens the United State’s ability to make trade deals with other nations.

The Bush administration has argued for the past 18 months that it needed TPA to assert American leadership on trade. Without TPA, countries generally are reluctant to conclude trade deals with the United States, fearing Congress will upset a pact’s politically delicate compromises.

Passage of TPA is expected to be very positive for agriculture because export markets are so vital to the industry.

Associated Press, Washington Times