Contact Me


Serving You


Media Center


Legislative Work


Our District




MythBusters: Trade Edition

Dear Friends,

Like so many of you, I believe in American exceptionalism. I know that when we compete on a level playing field, and when our businesses and manufacturers are afforded access to the same markets as our competitors overseas, we win. That is why I support free trade.

Here in Tennessee alone, some 800,000 jobs are tied to trade. That’s not surprising when you consider that more than 95 percent of the consumers in today’s global economy are outside our nation’s borders. Free trade is vital to building an opportunity economy and helping the many families and businesses who are struggling in today’s Obama economy. But in order to realize the full benefits of free trade, we’ve got to make sure we hold President Obama accountable for striking the best trade agreement possible.

As the Obama Administration’s unprecedented concessions to Iran and Cuba have shown us, this President isn’t much of a negotiator-in-chief.  We must ensure Congress has a strong oversight role throughout the trade discussions that are happening right now – not just a vote at the end of the process. The trade promotion authority or “TPA” legislation being debated in Congress will make that possible.

Unfortunately, some in Washington have attempted to distort the facts on what TPA is and is not. I have heard from some Tennesseans in recent weeks who expressed misgivings about this legislation, so I want to share with you why I strongly support TPA and, hopefully, dispel some of the myths about this plan as well.  

In short, TPA is a process for establishing trade agreements. It states that whenever the President reaches a trade deal, Congress will hold an up-or-down vote on the agreement – without amending it – but only if certain conditions are met. Congress has granted nearly every president since Franklin D. Roosevelt some form of TPA because, without it, other countries simply won’t put their best offers on the table.

The TPA we’re considering today, however, is unique in that it empowers Congress by setting forth nearly 150 negotiating objectives that must be achieved in order to guarantee a vote on the proposal. In other words, Congress is not simply letting the President set the terms of a trade deal on his own, we are driving the agenda.

Despite this, some have still claimed that TPA takes power away from Congress and hands it over to the President. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, a new report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service states very clearly, "TPA grants no new authority to the President." Under current law, the President is free to negotiate trade deals as he pleases without consulting Congress – he simply has to get our signoff on the final agreement. With TPA, however, Congress has a voice throughout these discussions. That is why, when the Senate voted on TPA recently, fellow conservatives like Ted Cruz supported the measure.

Others have stated that TPA will pave the way for the President to cut a “secret” trade deal. Our bill does just the opposite. It explicitly requires the Administration to make the text of its trade agreements public for at least sixty days before Congress even considers it for a vote.

Finally, some in the media have confused TPA – a vehicle for negotiating trade deals – with “TPP” also known as the Trans Pacific Partnership – a specific trade agreement the President is seeking to negotiate with 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region. A vote for TPA does not automatically approve the Trans Pacific Partnership. Rather, it ensures that when the deal is finalized, the American people will be able to hear exactly what is in it, and Congress will vote it up or down.

Governor Mitt Romney, who also supports TPA, put it this way: “I can't be sure that President Obama can negotiate a trade deal that's good for America, but I am sure that the Republican Congress will turn down one that's not.” 

Under TPA, Congress retains our power to do exactly that. TPA is good for jobs, good for families, and good for Tennessee.


Diane Black
Member of Congress