I know that there is some legislation that President Trump has cited allows him to raise tariffs, as well as "fast track" that applies to multilateral trade agreements, but what allows him to exercise administrative authority in terms of bilateral trade negotiations (ex: China)? Would Congress have to approve or reject whatever he ends up negotiating with China?

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    With "Congress" do you mean the Senate that refuses to do anything to stop him? – Reinstate Monica - M. Schröder Oct 22 '19 at 17:50
  • @MartinSchröder comment implies that no one is allowed to side with the president. It is a perfectly valid political position to agree with the actions of the president. – Frank Cedeno Oct 22 '19 at 20:45
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    @FrankCedeno I don't think so. Senate ratifies treaties. Martin Schröder's comment seems to be a reference to that. – grovkin Oct 23 '19 at 1:27
  • @grovkin tariffs are not treaties – Frank Cedeno Oct 23 '19 at 22:33
  • @FrankCedeno a "trade agreement" is a type of a treaty. – grovkin Oct 23 '19 at 23:48

Yes, Congress still has to approve, but "fast track" authority prevents Congress from sending back a completely different package that was "agreed" to which would, essentially, start the process again from scratch.

When there is fast track authority, Congress has to give it an expedited yes/no vote with limited discussion and no amendments, which gives any administration's negotiating team a lot more credibility when they agree to certain provisions in an agreement, since it will fly or fail by the language that is there, and they won't be revisiting the same territory over and over, unless it does fail to pass, as a whole.

Fast track is an expedited procedure for Congressional consideration of trade agreements. It requires Congress to vote on an agreement without reopening any of its provisions, while retaining the ultimate power of voting it up or down. The three essential features of any fast track authority are:

  1. extensive consultations and coordination with Congress throughout the process;

  2. a vote on implementing legislation within a fixed period of time; and

  3. an up or down vote, with no amendments.

Clinton White House archived web site: What is Fast Track?

  • Thank you! Is there a place for the Reciprocal Trade Agreement Act of 1934 in this context? Would you say that the Reciprocal Trade Act of 1934 kind of solidified the President's increasing role in negotiating trade agreements (as compared to the broad international negotiation power the President had before), with Congress having to accept or reject with a simple majority? And then the fast track further specified and gave the administration's negotiations a lot more credibility re: discussion and amendments? – Ann Oct 22 '19 at 21:58
  • @Ann - the authority is specifically authorized, I'll update later today with references. Thanks for prodding me on that, it's kind of an important pieces that I left out. – PoloHoleSet Oct 23 '19 at 16:03

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