Trade Promotion Authority (TPA): Frequently Asked Questions

Legislation to reauthorize Trade Promotion Authority (TPA)—sometimes called “fast track,”—the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015), was signed into law by President Obama on June 29, 2015 (P.L. 114-26). If the President negotiates an international trade agreement that would reduce tariff or non-tariff barriers to trade in ways that require changes in U.S. law, the United States can implement the agreement only through the enactment of legislation. If the trade agreement and the process of negotiating it meet certain requirements, TPA allows Congress to consider the required implementing bill under expedited procedures, pursuant to which the bill may come to the floor without action by the leadership, and can receive a guaranteed up-or-down vote with no amendments.

Under TPA, an implementing bill may be eligible for expedited consideration if: (1) the trade agreement was negotiated during the limited time period for which TPA is in effect; (2) the agreement advances a series of U.S. trade negotiating objectives specified in the TPA statute; (3) the negotiations were conducted in conjunction with an extensive array of required notifications to and consultations with Congress and other stakeholders; and (4) the President submits to Congress a draft implementing bill, which must meet specific content requirements, and a range of required supporting information. If, in any given case, Congress judges that these requirements have not been met, TPA provides mechanisms through which the eligibility of the implementing bill for expedited consideration may be withdrawn in one or both chambers.

TPA-2015 applies to trade agreements reached before July 1, 2018, with a possible extension to July 1, 2021. The United States is now engaged in renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), for which TPA could be used to consider implementing legislation. The issue of TPA reauthorization raises a number of questions regarding TPA itself and the pending legislation. This report addresses a number of those questions that are frequently asked, including the following:

What is trade promotion authority?

Is TPA necessary?

What are trade negotiating objectives and how are they reflected in TPA statutes?

What requirements does Congress impose on the President under TPA?

Does TPA affect congressional authority on trade policy?

For more information on TPA, see CRS Report RL33743, Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) and the Role of Congress in Trade Policy, by Ian F. Fergusson and CRS In Focus IF10038, Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), by Ian F. Fergusson.