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Trade bill is one of the most important in U.S. history, says Sen. Hatch

Supporters of a proposed trade pact with Asia ran into a roadblock Tuesday when a test vote on giving President Obama fast-track authority failed in the Senate. Judy Woodruff talks to Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, a co-sponsor of the fast-track legislation, about a new compromise reached by lawmakers and why he supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Now to our series of conversations on trade, the subject of a fierce debate over a proposed pact with Asia.

    President Obama and supporters of such a deal ran into a roadblock yesterday when a test vote failed unexpectedly in the Senate after opposition from Democrats. It was just the opening bid of an effort to give the president authority to so-called fast-track a deal that Congress could approve, but not amend. Today, lawmakers announced a compromise to let that vote happen, but it signaled just how tough it could be to get a much bigger trade deal done.

    We talk to two leading players on Capitol Hill who will influence the final outcome, first Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah. He's a co-sponsor of the fast-track legislation.

    Welcome, Senator Hatch.

    I guess my first question is, is this compromise that — been reached today purely on procedural grounds or has either side given in on the substance?

    SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), Utah: Well, no, it's basically a procedural compromise, but it's what we wanted to begin with, and that is to have the four bills brought up and voted upon individually.

    And so we're going to start with the preferences bill, and then we will start with the — which will include the African free trade agreement and others, and Haiti as well, and then we're going to go to the — to one of the — to the customs bill, and then we will dispose of those. It's going to take 60 votes each to pass those. I think they both will pass.

    And then we go to trade promotion authority bill, which, of course — and trade adjustment assistance. The trade promotion authority bill is one of the most important bills in our country's history. It's been decades since we have really done a trade agreement that is going to be effective as this one.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, let me ask you about some of the basic tenet of this one.

  • SEN. ORRIN HATCH:

    Sure.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    As I know you know, the opponents are saying, yes, there may be some jobs created in the short term, but in the longer run, if you look at what happened to NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, over time, many jobs were lost. And they have done studies. They say hundreds of thousands of jobs, maybe even a million jobs were lost.

    How do you counter that argument?

  • SEN. ORRIN HATCH:

    Over time, the NAFTA bill created millions of jobs, too.

    The fact of the matter is, is that this bill will probably do even better than that, because we have to be in the real world. This bill will enable the trade representative to negotiate agreements on what's called TPP, the trade promotion authority — or — excuse me — the Trans-Pacific project over there.

    And that involves 11 nations, plus our own, and then, of course, TTIP, which the European trade agreement of 28 nations, plus our own, giving — putting us on an equal footing in many respects to everything in those countries, and opening the door to free trade from our country to all of theirs.

    It's a — it could amount to trillions of dollars over the years and free trade benefits to the United States. And I think it will create a tremendous number of jobs.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    But, Senator, I think, as you know, many Americans have come over time to associate a trade deal with a draining of jobs out of the United States. How do you turn that impression around?

  • SEN. ORRIN HATCH:

    Well, first of all, the impression is false. There were some jobs lost under NAFTA, like some textile jobs and so forth, but there were a lot of jobs that were created under NAFTA, too.

    And anybody who says otherwise is just not telling the truth. In this particular case, we're talking about trillions of dollars of free trade over the years. And the United States, you know, we're talking about up to 40 percent to 60 percent of the World Trade. Now, 95 percent of trade people live outside of the United States of America.

    And we have got to be in the real world where we can trade with all these other countries and receive all the benefits of those free trade agreements. The president happens to be right on this.

    I like Elizabeth Warren. She's a nice person and we're friends, but, in all honesty, the president is right on this and he deserves support. And I'm supporting him, and hopefully we will get these bills through.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, you mentioned Senator Warren, and we are going to be talking to her right after we talk with you.

  • SEN. ORRIN HATCH:

    Sure.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    But one of her main objections is the secrecy that has surrounded this, the fact that the American people can't look at the terms of this deal, that members of Congress have to go into a closed room, can't take any notes out, but mainly that it's not in the public eye, and that, once Congress passes this so-called fast-track authority for the president, whatever is done can't be amended.

  • SEN. ORRIN HATCH:

    Well, wait a minute.

    What this bill does is, it provides the procedural mechanism where Congress can get into all of those issues once we pass this bill. In other words, it's the way we can have total transparency. Plus, the reason that they're — you can — members of Congress and their staffs can go see these matters right now, but the reason that they're so tightly controlled is because they haven't entered into them yet.

    They have got to complete them. They didn't want people tearing them down before they actually get them done. But, when they're done, we will be able to look at them. We will know every aspect of them. It will be TPA that provides the mechanism for us to really look at those.

    And so I think sometimes people get mixed up on, you know, the trade agreements. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, for an example, they get mixed up on that, when that is currently being negotiated, and forget that the that the trade bill that we're talking about provides the mechanism whereby we can enter into these agreements and get them to correspond with what America really needs and what America really deserves.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, as you know, the argument that she's making, though, is that, at this point, the American people are shut out of this very important debate. Let me finally ask you this.

  • SEN. ORRIN HATCH:

    Well, let me just answer that, because that's not a good point.

    The fact of the matter is, is — is that all of this — this — this trade agreement will require transparency and will give the Congress the ability to really look into any matter that they — any treaty they entered into. And it's the way we get there.

    And for people to fight this, this is the one way that those who are concerned about what goes on — and all of us should be — will be able to really look at these matters and come to some really informative and good conclusions.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Do you think this ultimately will pass?

  • SEN. ORRIN HATCH:

    Oh, yes, I really do. I think we — I think we have the votes to pass it. It's going to be — well, it's going to be hard-fought. There's no question some people just hate the concept of free trade authority.

    And, frankly, at least two of them are going to fight it with everything they have got. And they have that right. I have no problem with that. But, then again, we have to also act in the best interests of the country, and, really, this bill is one of the most important bills in this president's whole tenure. He happens to be right on it, and I support him in it.

    And I think the vast majority of Republicans will wind up supporting the president on trade promotion authority.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Senator Orrin Hatch, we thank you.

  • SEN. ORRIN HATCH:

    You bet.

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