the world is still reeling from U.S. decisions on steel and the passage of the
farm bill, the congressional conferees made a giant step toward free trade last
night by agreeing on a conference report for trade promotion authority (TPA).
TPA gives the President the ability to negotiate trade agreements and then
present them to Congress for an up or down vote without amending the agreement.
With only 3 out of the 190 trade and investment agreements in the world, the
United States lags far behind.
The fact that
the United States trails behind the world in free trade agreements is troubling.
In this time of economic need, Congress should waste no time to grant the
President trade promotion authority (TPA) to negotiate more trade agreements.
countries would like to sign a free trade agreement with the United States, but
they are hesitant to enter negotiations on agreements that could be subject to
countless amendments debated at length in Congress. Trade promotion authority
will assure potential trade partners that the agreements they sign with the
Administration will be approved or rejected by Congress quickly and without
possible to negotiate agreements without TPA, but it is far more difficult and
thus less likely to occur. Countries are more likely to negotiate with others
that possess such authority, which ensures a quick negotiating process, not a
other countries freely trade back and forth, the United States continues to fall
Lamy, the European Commissioner for Trade, has observed, "If Trade Promotion
Authority is denied by Congress, it would be hard for the U.S.
Administration to establish itself as a credible trading partner." Granting the
President trade promotion authority at a time when U.S. credibility is at a low
point due to the steel tariff and the farm bill will send a message to the rest
of the world that the America is serious about free trade and will no longer sit
on the sidelines.
conference report also includes trade adjustment assistance (TAA) for displaced
workers. In particular, it extends assistance to workers for health care
coverage. The health care provisions in the conference report are a modest step
forward for health care policy. Fortunately, Congress resisted earlier attempts
to enroll Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) eligible workers into Medicaid, the
government-run welfare program for health insurance. Instead, Members opted to
provide these individuals with federal assistance to help them secure private
health care coverage of their own. The adoption of a health care tax credit
offers credit recipients favorable tax treatment for the purchase of health
insurance, similar to that which they enjoyed through their employer.
Furthermore, direct tax credit assistance will reduce the likelihood that these
workers and their families will be forced to join the ranks of the uninsured.
The conference report does not include full, open access to all forms of
health insurance. It restricts tax credit recipients’ access to policies bought
in the individual market and defers to the states which coverage options will be
available. It is unfortunate that Congress chooses to deny an individual’s right
to apply the credit to a policy of their own choice.
Opportunities. While the legislation creates obstacles for tax credit recipients
to access affordable, private health care coverage, it does offer states an
opportunity to design innovative approaches to cover this population. It
encourages states to devise solutions that supplement the effectiveness of the
tax credit. Similar to the achievements made by the states with welfare reform,
the prospects for success are tangible.
affects only a small population, Congressional passage of a health care tax
credit marks a major change in the federal tax treatment for health insurance.
While some of the provisions remain problematic, this policy creates a framework
to which further work can be done by the states and the federal government to
give individuals and families the ability to choose affordable, private health
care coverage of their choice.
with the conference report will give states the opportunity to design innovative
approaches to covering displaced workers and will give American workers and
farmers better opportunities from engaging in free trade.
J. Fitzgerald] and [Nina
Owcharenko] are Policy Analysts at The Heritage Foundation
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