US apparel groups and retailers are calling for swift passage of legislation introduced on Thursday (9 January) that would help to 'fast-track' international trade deals.  

The so-called Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) allows Congress to approve or reject trade agreements, but not amend them once submitted.

The legislation is seen as critically important for the US to conclude on-going trade negotiations with Asia and Europe, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) said the bill "empowers the Administration to pursue an ambitious trade agenda, and it empowers Congress to provide the Administration with clear negotiating objectives that promote American competitiveness and participation in global value chains."

Likewise, the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) said the restoration of TPA would restore US credibility in negotiating trade agreements.

Without TPA, Congress could change significant terms of a trade agreement that is already negotiated, AAFA says - noting that trade negotiating partners might choose to hold back key concessions at the bargaining table knowing they might be altered by Congress at some future date.

"The trade agreements that will follow this legislation will strengthen our recovery and provide the framework for future economic and employment growth," added Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation (NRF). 

"New trade promotion authority provides our nation's trade negotiators with the clarity and flexibility they need to deal with our current and future trading partners."

TPA would be authorised for four years, with an option to renew for an additional three years. The most recent iteration of TPA expired in 2007.

"Not only is it a key indicator of whether the US is likely to move ahead on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, but it could also serve as a vehicle to move other trade legislation like a renewal of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), a miscellaneous trade bill or an extension of the one-for-one apparel matching programme in Nicaragua that promotes the use of US yarns and fabrics," explained Nicole Bivens Collinson, president of trade negotiations and legislative affairs for Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg.