Fast-track passed; Cat calls it significant for business

Log in to save this page.
600px Caterpillar logo

For the first time since 2007, a U.S. president will have access to fast track trade authority after the U.S. Senate on Wednesday passed it and sent it to President Obama for his signature. He is expected to sign it.

The legislation, officially known as Trade Promotion Authority, was passed over the opposition of Congressional Democrat leaders and labor unions. But it was welcomed by big business, particular those companies who rely on exports for a large portion of their business.

That includes Peoria-based Caterpillar Inc., which called TPA “a linchpin that will provide U.S. trade negotiators with the strongest possible negotiating position as the U.S. seeks to expand trade with Europe, the Asia-Pacific Rim and developing countries. While Caterpillar played a leadership role in support of TPA, a key difference-maker was the engagement of Caterpillar employees,” the company said in a news release.

"Congressional passage of TPA marks a significant victory for supporters of trade and economic growth," said Caterpillar Chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman. "Caterpillar has been a consistent, forceful voice for trade throughout our 90-year history; and we're glad to see a bipartisan Congressional majority reaffirm that the U.S. is serious about increasing trade. We're also especially proud our employees sent more than 27,000 letters to Washington to ensure their position in favor of trade was known during this debate.

Lauding the efforts of Obama and Republican Congressional leaders, Oberhelman added, “We are optimistic that TPA will lead the way for many new market-opening agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership."

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade pact between 12 nations that include the United States and Asia-Pacific countries, is what was behind Obama’s push for fast-track authority. TPA is referred to as fast-track because it enables the president to negotiate trade deals and then submit them to Congress, which can only vote it up or down without modification.

TPA has been provided to every president since Franklin Roosevelt, but it has not been available since 2007.  

Caterpillar said its employees and suppliers demonstrated their understanding of how essential trade is to Caterpillar's ability to grow and delivered that message to Washington. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and other agreements create opportunities to enhance Caterpillar's exports. During the past five years, Caterpillar has exported nearly $88 billion of products from the United States; during the same period more than half of the company's U.S.-made products have been sold overseas. 

While Caterpillar did not differentiate between its hourly and salaried employees is saying they made a difference in getting TPA approved, one of the labor unions opposed to TPA is the United Auto Workers, which represents Caterpillar’s hourly employees in central Illinois.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).