Our Views: More power for trade

As so often in Washington D.C., criticisms fly between Congress at one end of Pennsylvania Avenue and that man in the White House on the other end. And as so often, when one party sees a president of the other party doing something they don’t like, they claim executive overreach.

Every president tends to do the same sorts of things with executive orders, recess appointments and regulatory changes — the problem is that the other party tends to disagree. Look at the Democrats’ hyperventilating over the executive actions of President George W. Bush.

Amid debates that shed more heat than light, it’s helpful that a bipartisan effort is under way to restore a presidential authority that was lost to the White House in Bush’s last term: fast-tracking trade agreements.

U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, leads a bipartisan group in the House that is pushing a restoration of “trade promotion authority,” which is how trade agreements have been fashioned in the past.

A typical bill before Congress allows for at least some amendments to change its provisions. The complexity and political sensitivity of a trade agreement means that no measure could ever pass because every particular interest would seek amendments in its favor.

Trade agreements between two particular countries are complex enough, but that problem is multiplied in multi-nation agreements, such as the Pacific trade partnership now being negotiated by the U.S. and many of its trading partners.

In practice, this won’t be unlimited presidential power. Rather, it would involve considerable give-and-take by the U.S. trade representative, members of Congress and the interested industries which want trade but also worry about competitive pressures. Not to mention the concerns of the nations on the other side of the trade table.

Louisiana’s delegation — representing a state with a complex of the nation’s leading ports — tends to be pro-trade. Boustany told editors of The Advocate that the growth in Louisiana’s economy will be enhanced by the expansion of trade.

As President Barack Obama said at the Port of New Orleans, the expansion of trade is funded by a renaissance of manufacturing as well as the growth of exports in areas such as agriculture and energy.

For that, trade promotion authority is a key element in the future. We are delighted that there is new movement on the part of leading figures in both parties to push for trade promotion authority for the president.

Every president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1940s enjoyed that authority, until it expired in 2007. This is a case where more presidential authority, not less, is in Louisiana’s economic interests as well as the interest of the broader national economy.