It’s that time again; time for supporters of trade liberalisation to question the value of enhanced training and welfare programs for those who lose their jobs because of import competition, and for trade-skeptics to ask why we need trade liberalization at all.
This argument traditionally takes place in the context of the debate about renewing (or, as in 2009, expanding) the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, and whether it should be linked to renewal—or, in the current context, reinstatement—of trade promotion or “fast-track” authority, power granted to an administration to negotiate trade agreements and submit them to Congress for an up-or-down vote with no scope for deal-killing amendments. The two have traditionally been combined so legislators who would not normally support any procedural mechanisms to ease trade liberalisation (e.g., those close to labor unions) feel politically covered to do so. I’m not a fan of the TAA program for many reasons, which I summarized for the Downsizing Government website, and in any case I have long suspected that renewing TAA doesn’t really buy much support for trade liberalization any more.
Apparently Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) agrees, and said he is fed up with the deal:
Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) this week made clear that he sees a potential obstacle to moving a new fast-track or Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill in the demands by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and the Obama administration that it be linked to an extension of the expiring Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program.
“One of the problems with TPA is that they want to push TAA, which generally has [sic] union encroachment on free trade,” Hatch told reporters after a July 30 speech to the American Enterprise Institute.
Asked whether he would oppose combining the two bills, Hatch said he would have to wait and see whether TAA is “just another improper gift to the unions.” [Source: Inside U.S. Trade, July 31, 2013, subscription required]