(The Washington Post)
Trade-promotion authority is a critical tool in the conduct of U.S. diplomacy. It does not strip Congress of a role in negotiating trade agreements. It explicitly allows Congress to outline principles that must be heeded during negotiations and to exercise its constitutional duties by voting on negotiated agreements. Congress has used that authority to shape the direction of trade agreements over decades — and without it those agreements would not have been possible. Our negotiating partners will not sign trade agreements with the United States if those agreements will, after the fact, be subject to line-by-line amendment during ratification.
This is not a matter of trusting the inhabitant of the White House, whoever that may be. For 40 years, trade-promotion authority (also called fast-track authority) has effectively balanced the role of the executive and legislative branches. When it has lapsed (1995 to 2001 and 2007 to the present), the United States has had to sit on the sidelines. In those periods, more than 100 regional trade agreements were negotiated without us. We cannot afford to have that continue — especially now.