Free Trade

What’s TPP, TPA, and TAA?

Andrew Roth - May 27th, 2015

These acronyms have been in the news lately, so we thought we’d break down the details for you.

The Club for Growth strongly supports free trade.  And while we would prefer immediate multilateral elimination of all tariffs (domestic and abroad), or even unilateral elimination (just domestic), we recognize that politics get in the way of that.  So while they aren’t preferable, the Club typically supports free trade agreements.  Deals like NAFTA, CAFTA, and now the recent Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), massively reduce tariffs and other barriers to trade.

When trade agreements become law, the government’s intervention in the free market is reduced.  But in order for this to happen, they have to be negotiated with the foreign countries involved.  Unfortunately, it’s impractical for 535 politicians to be on one side of the negotiating table when working out the various details.

That creates a dilemma.  But luckily there’s a solution.  The Constitution grants the President the authority to negotiate with foreign countries.  It also grants Congress the authority to write laws.  So trade promotion authority (TPA) brings these two things together.  Through TPA, Congress allows the President to negotiate trade agreements as long as he follows certain objections.  In return, Congress promises to hold an up or down vote on the agreements without them getting bogged down with dozens of amendments.

So while TPA isn’t a pro-growth idea, it enables the creation and the ultimate passage of pro-growth trade agreements.

Most Republicans in Congress are for free trade, and therefore, are pro-TPA.  Conversely, most Democrats – beholden to their labor union supporters – are hostile to trade and therefore, TPA.  But some Democrats are willing to support TPA if they get some big government policies out of the deal.  This is where Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) comes in.  TAA is a welfare program that provides cash benefits and job training for workers who lose their jobs to free trade.  The labor unions love it.  But the program is so poorly designed and administered – not a surprise for a government agency – that a study commissioned by the Labor Department itself said that it was a negative net benefit to society.

Sometimes TPA, TAA, and even free trade agreements themselves are cobbled together in order to grease the wheels towards passage of all three.  But as standalone policies, it’s clear that TPA enables the passage of pro-growth trade agreements, while TAA is nothing but an anti-growth welfare program that should be terminated.

Club for Growth & Heritage Action statement on the Export-Import Bank

Doug Sachtleben - May 22nd, 2015

Washington – Following Senate passage of the Trade Act of 2015 (H.R. 1314), Club for Growth President David McIntosh and Heritage Action CEO Michael A. Needham issued a joint statement:

“Yesterday, Senator Maria Cantwell leveraged her vote on Trade Promotion Authority to open up Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s playbook on the Export-Import Bank. It is incumbent upon House conservatives to use their leverage on TPA to extract ironclad public commitments from both McConnell and Speaker John Boehner. Leader McConnell should make clear he will not allow the Democrat minority to usurp the Republican majority’s procedural prerogative. At the same time, Speaker Boehner must make clear he will not jam conservatives on Ex-Im. House conservatives should use every tool at their disposal to stop the advance of TPA until Republican leaders issue those ironclad public commitments.”


Key Vote Alert on TPA Bill

Andrew Roth - May 20th, 2015


“YES” on Flake Amdt to Strike TAA (#1243)

“NO on Portman Currency Admt (#1299)

The Club for Growth urges all Senators to vote “YES” on Sen. Flake’s amendment (#1243) to strike Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) from the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill (H.R. 1314).  The Club also urges Senators to vote “NO” on Sen. Portman’s amendment to insert protectionist currency language into the proposal.  Votes are expected sometime this week.  These votes will be included in the Club for Growth’s 2015 Congressional Scorecard.

The Club for Growth supports TPA.  We believe that it is both constitutional and can lead to the passage of pro-growth trade agreements.  But this bill includes the wasteful TAA welfare program in an attempt to buy Democrat votes.  This is the sort of political logrolling that appalls American taxpayers, just like the unholy marriage of farm subsidies and food stamps.

Likewise, the currency amendment is a protectionist rider that will incite a trade war and do harm to the economy.  Senators devoted to free trade and free markets should demand that TPA be voted on as a standalone measure without being weighed down by protectionist language or an inefficient, big government program.

Our Congressional Scorecard for the 114th Congress provides a comprehensive rating of how well or how poorly each member of Congress supports pro-growth, free-market policies and will be distributed to our members and to the public.

Key Vote Alert – “NO” on Customs Bill (HR 644)

Andrew Roth - May 14th, 2015


“NO” on Customs Bill (HR 644)

The Club for Growth urges all Senators to vote “NO” on final passage of the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 (HR 644).  A vote is expected tomorrow at 12 noon EDT.  This vote will be included in the Club for Growth’s 2015 Congressional Scorecard.

Our largest objection to this bill is the currency language that was added during the committee markup conducted earlier this year.  This new language would designate currency manipulation as a prohibited export subsidy, and thus, allow the government to take remedial action against the foreign country in question.

This is nothing but naked protectionism that is anti-growth.  It would incite a nasty trade war that no country would win and that could inflict significant harm on the American economy.

Separately, the Club is generally supportive of the policies in the Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015, but the vote will likely not be included in the Club’s scorecard.  Likewise, the Club will not score the motion to proceed to H.R. 1314, but we will consider amendments to that bill as they are debated.  Specifically, if there is an amendment to strike TAA from the bill, we will score in favor of that.

Our Congressional Scorecard for the 114th Congress provides a comprehensive rating of how well or how poorly each member of Congress supports pro-growth, free-market policies and will be distributed to our members and to the public.

Club for Growth Opposes Trade-Killer Amendments

Doug Sachtleben - April 22nd, 2015

Washington, DC – The Club for Growth issued the following statement regarding today’s Senate Finance Committee markup on trade legislation:


“While the Club for Growth supports Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) in general, four amendments on today’s agenda are threats to free trade,” said Club for Growth President David McIntosh. “The Portman/Stabenow currency amendment has been rightly called a protectionist ‘Poison Pill’ by the Wall Street Journal. It would incite a trade war that is antithetical to economic freedom. In addition, we oppose Senator Sherrod Brown’s (D-OH) three amendments to plus up Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), which would only serve to feed more tax dollars into yet another government welfare program.”

The Club for Growth has a long history of opposing these attempts to short-circuit free trade, and has scored against them in the past. In 2007 the Club led an effort to fight protectionists with a petition to Congress signed by 1,028 economists.


The Club for Growth is the nation’s leading group promoting economic freedom through legislative involvement, issue advocacy, research, and education.