If a U.S. trade agreement meets the requirements of Trade Promotion Authority (formally, the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015), Congress can apply expedited procedures to approve legislation implementing the trade agreement. Those procedures, commonly known as “fast track,” ensure the vote is taken within a limited period of time, and that the bill receives an up-or-down vote with limited debate and no amendments. The bill passes with a simple majority.
Fast track approvals provide U.S. negotiators with more credibility vis-a-vis their foreign government counterparts that the agreement they reach will not require renegotiation for Congressional approval. Reopening deals risks upsetting carefully crafted compromises and could potentially create difficulties for other countries in their legislative process if the agreement has to be voted on more than once.
For an overview of why we have this legislation and how it works in practice, read our Essential.
For quick reference, here’s your annotated guide to the timeline and procedures for “fast track” approvals of U.S. trade deals by Congress. It is derived from the annex of what we think is an excellent and definitive guide to Trade Promotion Authority from the Congressional Research Service: Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) and the Role of Congress in Trade Policy, June 15, 2015
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Andrea Durkin is the Editor-in-Chief of TradeVistas and Founder of Sparkplug, LLC. She is a nonresident Senior Fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and an adjunct fellow with CSIS. Ms. Durkin previously served as a U.S. Government trade negotiator and has proudly taught International Trade for the last fourteen years as an Adjunct Associate Professor at Georgetown University’s Master of Science in Foreign Service program.